'Christmas miracle,' friends of man trapped under I-94 bridge react

UPDATE: Beacon Health Systems provided an update on Reum's condition, improving from critical to serious, on Thursday, December 28. 

Original Story: 

SOUTH BEND, Ind.-- It’s a story of survival and just pure luck.

“We were getting to the fishing hole, and the truck was a little distance, but it was more like a mangled-- you couldn’t tell it was a truck or not,” said Mario Garcia. “But it caught our curiosity.”

Two fishermen, Garcia and his son-in-law, found a wrecked truck under the I-94 bridge over Salt Creek in Porter County, a mile east of the Portage exit.

“Quite frankly, it’s a miracle that he’s alive,” said Indiana State Police Sergeant, Glen Fifield. “In this weather, we’ve been lucky enough this Christmas season that our temperatures have been above normal.”

Trapped inside the truck, Matt Reum was still alive, eventually flown to South Bend Memorial Hospital after the harrowing rescue. ABC57 learned Wednesday Reum had a partial amputation to his left leg from the shin down, and he remains in critical condition.

"All of a sudden an article pops up that he basically just survived the impossible,” said friend of Reum and fellow boilermaker, Kiona Kuykendall. "It does not surprise me at all, because he is the most positive, just forward-thinking person.”

"Six days of being under a bridge, I mean, I can only imagine-- I can't even imagine, actually, what he was going through,” said friend John Kingsley Edwards. “And, of course, just why would anyone want anything like that to happen to anybody? With as big a heart he has, there's obviously no way he deserved to be in any sort of situation like this."

Matt Reum is a union boilermaker and transferred to the local 374 in 2021, according to business manager Ben Sievers.

Sievers sent ABC57 the following statement:

Matt is a part of our union, Boilermakers Local 374. We were able to speak with him last night, we are thankful the Matt is alive and grateful for the men who found him. Matt’s strong will and toughness speak volumes through this ordeal. Matt has been a Boilermaker since 2015 originally a member of Boilermakers Local 455 in Tennessee and transferred into Boilermakers Local 374 in 2021 when he moved to the South Bend area. He is a welder among many other things and very good asset to his trade. Since I have known Matt, he has always been a positive, kind, and energetic person. We will continue to pray and support our brother as he begins his recovery. We thank God that Matt is still with us. Matt had surgery this morning and they did amputate from the mid-shin down. He is currently in ICU.

"Talking six days, almost a full week just people being within feet of you, right above you, and nobody knows you're there," Edwards said.

How he survived is still a mystery, but some are calling it a Christmas miracle, like Lauren Ziegler, who drives the I-94 bridge to and from work every day.

“And on my way home, I had noticed the highway was closed,” Ziegler said. “So, to find out that someone has been under that bridge this whole time was really alarming. I’m just thankful he was found safe, and just in the nick of time.”

She says the whole Portage community is shocked, but now rooting for Reum.

“He’s kind of a local celebrity now, you know?” Ziegler said. “It was truly a Christmas miracle that he had made it out alive.”

The road to recovery for Reum is long, but friends say they have no doubt he will continue to fight.

"He's strong and he won't quit. I know that much about him," Edwards said.

ABC57 still has questions about this case, including whether anyone was looking for Reum while he was trapped under that bridge. Indiana State Police and the St. Joseph County police said they didn't have a missing person report on file.

In the meantime, Reum is asking for privacy to heal and to process what happened.

A spokesperson for Beacon Health System released the following statement on behalf of Reum:

“Matt Reum wants to thank everyone for the outpouring of support and all the well wishes, including the good Samaritans who found him, the first responders and his caregivers at Memorial Hospital. He remains in critical condition at this time. He has asked not only for time to process everything that he has endured since last Wednesday, but also for time to rest and heal. Matt knows he has a story to tell, and when he is ready, he plans to share details of that experience. Until then, Matt has asked us to share this message, while also requesting privacy during this time for himself, his family and friends. He adds, ‘No matter how tough things get, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, sometimes in the least expected way.’”

A GoFundMe has been set up for Reum to cover medical bills and recovery costs.

Share this article: