Gardnerville resident Cheryl Ann Duncan couldn't have been more thankful this Thanksgiving.
"I can never repay them for finding him, for giving me back my husband alive," she said.
Her husband, 65-year-old Edward Lee Duncan, was found Thanksgiving morning in his overturned Jeep that lay 250 feet below the steep embankment on Spooner Summit he had rolled down two days earlier.
Duncan was reported missing on Wednesday after he failed to return home from a Lion's Club meeting in north Lake Tahoe the night before.
It was long-time friend and Johnson Lane resident Ron Santi who went looking for Duncan on Thanksgiving morning and made the miraculous discovery.
"My gut feeling was that something had happened," Santi said. "I thought he was either in an accident or had been carjacked. But in Incline Village, things like carjackings don't happen, so I thought it was an accident."
By Wednesday night, nearly 24 hours after Duncan had disappeared, a storm was gripping the Sierra.
"I had trouble sleeping that night," Santi said. "At 7 the next morning, I got up and drove up Spooner. I made three trips up the mountain and it was difficult to see because the mountains were socked in with fog."
Santi said each time down he checked the turnouts looking for signs of accidents. It wasn't until his third time down, when the fog was beginning to lift, that he found something troubling.
"It was the third turnout from the top of the mountain," he said. "I looked over and saw a shiny wheel. I knew he had aluminum alloy tires. A tree to the right of me was also damaged."
Looking down the slope, Santi saw what he described as a "big metal object."
"I got in my car and drove down to Clear Creek Road," he said.
Clear Creek Road follows a steep canyon that runs parallel to the lower section of Spooner, along the Douglas/Carson county line.
"I drove up about three miles, found a landmark I had remembered and parked my car," he said. "Whatever I had found was so buried in the shrubs and trees I couldn't see it at first. I crawled on hands and knees through the shrubs, and then I saw his personalized license plate."
Duncan's 1994 green Jeep Cherokee lay on its top in the thick brush. Santi said he went back to the road, flagged down a passerby and called 911. Then they went back to the Jeep.
"I was really afraid to look inside because of the condition of the vehicle," Santi said.
He said they called Duncan's name and heard a response from inside the Jeep.
"I can't even put into words how happy that made me," Santi said.
After authorities extricated Duncan from the car, Santi squeezed his friend's hand and told him that he'd call his family.
Duncan was flown by helicopter to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno, where, as of Friday, he remained in good condition with minor injuries, including a broken wrist, broken ribs and contusions.
Cheryl Ann Duncan said she expects her husband back home today.
"He's been a little pale, but he's alert and thinking clearly," she said.
According to the Nevada Highway Patrol, Duncan spent 36 hours in the overturned vehicle. On his way home Tuesday night, he allegedly lost control of the Jeep,
veering out of the travel lane and going over the edge of a parking/look out area.
Troopers said the outcome of the accident would have been worse if Duncan had not been wearing his seat belt.
"I was so worried until a sheriff's officer came and told me they found him," said Cheryl Ann Duncan. "We'll have to celebrate Thanksgiving next week."
The Duncans moved to Carson Valley in 1994. Edward "Lee" Duncan was an admissions liaison officer for the U.S. Air Force for 16 years. He is now the president and chief underwriter of Innovative Insurance Solutions, Inc. in Minden and is also the vice president of the Carson Valley Lion's Club.
"I'm sure there will be lots of hugs and kisses at the next Lion's meeting," said Cheryl Ann Duncan.