Updated at 4:25 p.m.
By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
A young woman wearing only her underclothes was taken into the care of a truck driver who found her this morning when she crawled over a guard rail onto Interstate 5 where he was preparing to repair a flat tire, according to the Washington State Patrol.
The 23-year-old Centralia woman was hypothermic and taken to a hospital, according to Trooper Guy Gill. It’s not clear how she ended up alongside the freeway.
Gill said it happened near the Nisqually River Bridge at the Thurston-Pierce county line about 8:30 a.m.
According to Gill, she was soaking wet and covered from head to toe with cuts and scratches from sticker bushes. She emerged from a swampy area next to the freeway, according to Gill.
Gill said the truck driver’s actions may have saved her life.
Troopers later located an abandoned Jeep Cherokee at the end of a dirt road about 200 yards from the freeway, and believe she and a Centralia man had been in it, Gill said.
He thinks she could have been out in the elements at least eight hours.
The state patrol had gotten a report about 12:30 a.m. of a shirtless male walking on the freeway near that area, but never located him, even after using aircraft with a device that looks for heat signatures.
Troopers continue to look for the man, not because they think any crime was committed, Gill said. They suspect he was picked up by a passing motorist.
“More than anything, we’re checking on his well-being,” he said.
They don’t know if the vehicle broke down or maybe ran out of gas, and the female was not coherent enough to give much information, Gill said.
“She said the male left her at the vehicle, and the reason she was only in her underclothes is in the water, her clothes got heavy so she took them off,” he said.
The truck driver, John C. Davis of Portland, helped the girl into his truck, and drove to the state patrol “scale house” in Dupont, where he called the state patrol, according to Gill.
She was in very poor condition this morning, he said.
“She’s very lucky he came by ’cause she was not doing good,” Gill said. “This could have been much worse.”
In her condition, she could have easily walked right out onto the freeway, he said.
The woman was taken to St. Clare Hospital in Lakewood and the last Gill heard today, she was in good condition, he said.