Bees & berries: How an Ohio man survived on Mt. St. Helens

State News

PORTLAND, OR (KOIN) — Matthew Matheny spent nearly a week on Mount St. Helens with hardly any food and water. 

He was rescued Wednesday after he went missing on Aug. 9 — but now the question people have is how did he survive?

Just barely — according to Jared Smith, the Volcano Rescue Team volunteer who found Matheny after shouting his name over and over again. Smith was looking in an area that’s common for hikers to get lost in.

He said the 40-year-old looked like he was about to die and could barely move.

“He kind of shouted as much as he could,” Smith said. “He was really weak, so he barely stood up and went back down again and never said anything again.”

Matheny went days without water; however, he survived by eating berries as well as the bees that stung him.

“He was pretty much giving up right there and dying,” Smith told NBC4 sister station KOIN 6 News. “I put him on a Therm-a-Rest because he was on rocks, then I put a bag over him because the bees were eating at his wounds and biting at him. So once I got those two things, I just got a helicopter in route and kept him hydrated.”

Other members of the rescue team who helped Matheny get to safety shared some tips on what to do if you find yourself in a similar situation.

“Look for roads,” Lauren Dawkins with the Volcano Rescue Team said. “Try to make yourself as visible as possible. The biggest thing, I think, would be prevention. It’s taking appropriate steps before you even leave your house, doing some research.”

Hospital officials said Thursday Matheny is in satisfaction condition — which means his vital signs are stable and normal. He was released from the hospital Thursday night. 

The 40-year-old who’s from Warren, Ohio was visiting friends in Oregon. He was staying with Michael and Natalie Bush, who let him borrow their Subaru on Thursday, so he could explore the area. The Subaru was found Saturday, unoccupied.

Natalie and Michael are both in disbelief that Matheny was able to survive — calling him a “trooper.” They also said he was stung between 40-50 times, but every time a bee would sting him, he would smack it and eat it.

“He’s been a trooper,” Michael said. “Obviously I thought we might not see him again. I heard he’s doing great. He’s talking, he still has a sense of humor. He’s eating bees, he’s eating huckleberries — the guy is an animal.”

Matheny’s parents — Linda and Carney — arrived in Oregon on Sunday after learning their son was missing. 

Linda said her son is strong and fit and was a Boy Scout as a kid.

“We think that may have saved him,” she said. 

Linda expressed the family’s appreciation for the tireless work of multiple search and rescue organizations, especially the Volcano Rescue Team. She said the most encouraging parts of their days waiting was when the search and rescue volunteers arrived each morning. 

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