PLYMOUTH — Nancy Breberg was lost, creeping along on slippery roads in search of a suburban hotel when her SUV slid off the road and down an embankment onto an icy pond. For the next 18 hours, the 67-year-old woman was trapped, praying for help as water seeped over her feet and temperatures plunged into the teens.
Breberg, a diabetic, might not have survived if a passing bicyclist hadn't spotted her vehicle's wheel sticking up through brush that made it difficult to see. When he went closer to investigate, he saw someone in a pink jacket moving inside. Then Breberg called out for help.
"She was pretty weak," bicyclist Geoffrey Racette told The Associated Press on Monday, as Breberg was recovering at a Minneapolis hospital. "She said that she wasn't able to get out of the car and was stuck in there. She couldn't crawl out the back."
Racette crawled through the back window and fed Breberg some Chex Mix he had been carrying on his ride. She pointed him to her bag of medication, which he retrieved and handed over to paramedics who soon arrived.
Breberg's husband, Ron Breberg, 66, of Centerville, said she was on a breathing tube, sedated and getting fluids Monday as part of the recovery process at Hennepin County Medical Center. But he said doctors don't think his wife will need skin grafts for her frostbitten feet and she has no broken bones or other serious injuries — she just needs time to heal.
"Things are going in the right direction, but it will take some time," he said, adding that his wife had improved to serious condition.
Ron Breberg said he was looking forward to getting time to call Racette and thank him for rescuing his wife.
Nancy Breberg was looking for a hotel in St. Louis Park, where she was supposed to attend a dinner about 7:30 Friday night, when her SUV veered off the road, crashed through a fence, went down the embankment and landed on the pond on the driver's side, according to the police report. The impact broke the ice and allowed some water into the passenger compartment.
Breberg was able to get her seat and shoulder belt off, her husband said, but the water shorted out the vehicle's electrical system, so she couldn't open the windows or unlock the doors, and she couldn't get her legs working well enough to crawl out the broken back window. Her cell phone ended up in the water, where she couldn't reach it. She had no food but sucked on a piece of ice to get some water, he said.
"She was just hoping and praying that somebody could find her," Ron Breberg said.
She was conscious and coherent when Racette, 20, of Plymouth, found her just before 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
Racette said he was bicycling home from his part-time job in the meat department at a Rainbow Foods grocery store when he spotted the SUV and ran down to the pond.
"I think she was just really happy that somebody finally found her," Racette said. "She sounded extremely strong for somebody who had been through what she went through."
Racette said he was fortunate that the pond was shallow where her SUV came to rest.
"The ice was not solid. I fell through pretty quick. It was only about a foot-and-a-half deep so it wasn't terrible," Racette said, adding, "my boots are still drying."
Ron Breberg said he spent a sleepless night after reporting his wife missing to police. He said talked to her briefly Saturday before she was sedated.
"She was so tired. She just wanted to sleep," he said. "She didn't sleep at all while she was in the car."