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Masontown driver rescued after car careens over Fayette hillside

| Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

Emergency crews rescued a woman on Sunday who was found in the snow several hours after her car plunged over a hillside in rural Fayette County.

Crews found Lisa Jo Chatlak, 45, of Masontown in a ravine near Route 166 in Lower Martin after she apparently was ejected from her car, state police spokeswoman Stefani Plume said.

“She was there for a while,” Plume said. “I would assume several hours before she was actually found.”

Chatlak suffered moderate injuries from the crash and from exposure to the cold, Plume said. She was flown to a Morgantown hospital to be treated for hypothermia and head injuries, according to the Trib's news partner, WPXI-TV.

Chatlak was listed in good condition on Monday at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, W.Va.

Masontown police began their search about 8:15 a.m. Sunday because the woman's boyfriend called to report her missing, said police Chief Joseph Ryan.

“He hadn't heard from her,” Ryan said. “She was on her way to work. He lost cell contact with her.”

Cell service is sketchy in the area, he said.

“He called work, and they confirmed that she did not arrive,” Ryan said.

Police searched and found Chatlak's vehicle in the Lower Martin section of Nicholson Township, he said.

“They figured she was probably over the hillside for four to five hours, I'm guessing,” Ryan said.

Crews had to pull Chatlak up the hill, which is in a heavily wooded area with few houses, Plume said.

Owen Lander, medical director and staff physician for the emergency department at Ruby Memorial Hospital, spoke in general about cold exposure and hypothermia.

Hypothermia means “an abnormally low body temperature,” which poses a higher risk in the winter, although it can happen any time, he said.

“Essentially, as your body gets abnormally cool, everything starts to slow down — all the processes in your body,” Lander said.

Enzymes and proteins in the body don't work as well, and the body faces a higher risk of respiratory failure or cardiovascular collapse, he said.

Someone who has suffered trauma and then becomes hypothermic faces an increased risk of abnormal clotting and traumatic bleeding.

“The timely evaluation, treatment and intervention in trauma of any kind improves patient outcome,” Lander said, “but it just is multiplied when you have environmental exposure.”

Rossilynne Skena is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or rskena@tribweb.com.

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