Missing man shares his story

Print Article

Coates

By RALPH BARTHOLDT

Staff Writer

Howard Coates won’t go anywhere without his cellphone.

He did it once.

The experience almost killed him.

Coates, 66, is in good condition despite a hip that was broken after his ATV rolled last week, pinning him against a clump of trees. The Athol man, who had been missing for four days, was at Kootenai Health after being found less than a quarter mile from his home by family members.

Coates said he was pinned for days, barely able to move the off-road machine, which was on his legs.

He didn’t bring his cellphone on what he had anticipated would be a short jaunt on his ATV because he wasn’t planning to go far.

If he had his cellphone, he would have called for help.

Instead, he yelled.

“I yelled like crazy, but nobody heard me,” he said.

Coates was found south of Silverwood about 5:15 p.m. Sunday pinned between his ATV and a tree not far from a trail on private land. His wife reported him missing late Thursday from his North Ponderosa Street home after leaving on a four-wheeler wearing sneakers and pajama pants.

His wife told authorities he left the residence on a 2004 Camo Bombardier Outlander ATV. She did not know which direction he went.

“We didn’t know the direction of travel,” Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Ryan Higgins said. “We focussed on the trails and roads he might have gone on.”

Coates said he drove the ATV slowly on a trail near his home and along a sidehill in a meadow when he inadvertently rolled the machine. It pinned him against a clump of trees.

“There was only like three trees out there,” he said.

Search planes, when they flew over, were not able to see the ATV under the tree’s limbs, nor could they see Coates, who was jammed with his bare back to a tree’s trunk.

“Those planes flew over me all day,” he said.

It rained the first night, and he was soaked and shivering, he said. Then it rained again. The weather during the three days was a smorgasbord of North Idaho meteorology. Rain, sun — then cold.

“I was freezing,” he said. “The first night it rained real hard. I was freezing my ass off. It rained three times when I was out there.”

The sheriff’s office, along with the Civil Air Patrol, Spokane County and local search and rescue units scoured the area from Athol to Garwood and east to the Coeur d’Alene National Forest during daylight hours between Thursday and Sunday without results.

“It felt like I may never get out of there,” Coates said. “I was hoping, but it seemed like it was never going to happen.”

He drank rainwater, about a half cup, that puddled on the machine’s tool box cover, and considered cutting his leg off with a hose clamp that he tried to sharpen with a rock, he said. He hallucinated as the pain in his body became almost intolerable.

Sunday afternoon his wife, Cheryl, was in the Super 1 in Athol with her granddaughter when she received a cellphone call.

Her husband of 47 years had been found by his brother and son, who were riding their ATVs not far from the Coates’s neighborhood on their own search, just in case.

“I was thinking a lot of things,” Cheryl said. “I was just thankful that he was found, and that he was alive.”

Before he was found, Coates dreamed that his son was nearby.

That’s what he remembers, before his son and brother showed up.

“He was conscious and alert,” Higgins said. “He was cognitive. He knew what was going on.”

Coates is still in pain, he said, but most of all he is thankful for everyone who helped in the search.

“There were more than 300 people out there looking,” he said. “I’m just so tickled to death. I am just so thankful to be alive.”

If there’s a lesson, Coates said, it is to take nothing for granted.

And keep a cellphone nearby.

“I’m never leaving without my cellphone,” he said.

Print Article

Read More Local News

Stolen Corvette recovered from lake

August 23, 2019 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press Swimmers spot submerged car at boat launch in Mica Bay COEUR d’ALENE — A newer-model stolen Corvette was pulled from Mica Bay on Lake Coeur d'Alene on Wednesday night. Kootenai County Sheriff's ...

Comments

Read More

Giant forest health project will affect area from LPO to Canfield Mountain

August 23, 2019 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press A 50,000-acre forest-health project that will include logging and prescribed burns on infected and diseased tree stands in the Panhandle National Forest from Lake Pend Oreille to Hayden Lake will be ...

Comments

Read More

Chase suspect eludes deputy Receipt in abandoned vehicle being used to ID suspect

August 23, 2019 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press POST FALLS — An allegedly reckless driver who led a deputy on a chase on Interstate 90 and through Post Falls on Wednesday night remained on the loose Thursday afternoon. Kootenai County Sheriff's O...

Comments

Read More

Rep. Fulcher thanks Girl Scouts

August 23, 2019 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press COEUR d'ALENE — The difference Girl Scouts make in their North Idaho communities hasn't gone unnoticed by Rep. Russ Fulcher. The Idaho congressman thanked Girl Scouts for their leadership and dedica...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(208) 664-8176
215 N. Second St
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho 83814

©2019 The Coeur d'Alene Press Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X