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Roseburg man found alive after 17 days in wilderness shares story of survival

Harry Burleigh shared his story of survival after 17 nights in the woods

Posted: Jul 15, 2021 10:51 AM
Updated: Jul 15, 2021 7:50 PM

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Ore. -- A man who was found alive after spending 17 days in the wilderness is sharing his story on Thursday.

Harry Burleigh, 69, was reported missing in May, and Douglas County Search and Rescue along with teams from other counties searched for him in the Calf Creek area for weeks.


Burleigh said he was complacent and didn't follow basic protocols like packing water and a map.

"I thought it's just a mile and quarter trail. I'm going to be in and out in a flash," Burleigh said. "I don't need my pack that has my extra shirts, a compass, map and water bottle hookup."

Burleigh said he got lost and the next day it snowed. He tried to find his way out but realized things were serious.

"I tripped and fell and hit this first log, bounced to the next log, lost my fishing pole, crushed the reel against my hip and smacked my head pretty hard," Burleigh said.

After a few days lost, Burleigh said he lost a sense of time and was feeling disoriented.

"It's uncomfortable, it's cold, you're hungry. You have a sense of not thinking clearly," Burleigh said.

Burleigh said he drank his own urine and ate bugs to stay alive.

At a point, he said he accepted the fact that he may not make it out alive.

"I accepted the path. I accepted the fact that this was where I was going to be and [my wife] was going to be fine," Burleigh said.

Burleigh's wife, Stacy Burleigh, said she never lost hope.

"One of the deputies who was here was in charge of the search and rescue teams for Harry," Stacy said. "He was a godsend for me. He called me every day."

Burleigh said he used the pen he had to write things on his shirt like, "I want to see my sweetie's eyes one more time."

Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin said he's never seen a rescue mission like this before.

"In my 32 years with the sheriff's office, I can't even recall finding a missing person alive after one week," Hanlin said. "After three to four days, the chances of survival drastically decrease. Harry clearly held onto the love and hope which allowed him to survive."

Burleigh is speaking out to warn others who want to go an adventure.

"Take that five minutes to make sure you're following safety precautions to make it a good trip," Burleigh said.

Burleigh was found on May 23. He reportedly was walking and complaining of minor pain but was in stable condition. During the time he was missing, Burleigh lost almost 30 pounds.

A helicopter was used to hoist Burleigh from his location and transport him to a waiting helicopter. He then spent 12 days in intensive care at RiverBend Hospital.

#HAPPENINGNOW: Roseburg man Harry Burleigh shares his story of survival after 17 nights in the wilderness. More on midday and tonight on @KEZI9

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