Christopher Craven was driving home Sunday night from his cafeteria job at Delaware Valley University when he lost control of his gray 2006 Audi A4 in Warrington Township. It plowed 10 feet down into a ditch and hit a tree.
He wasn't found until 47 hours later in nearby Montgomery Township, dehydrated and lying in the grass near a busy intersection about a mile from where he crashed.
"He didn't have any memory of what happened," said David Duffy, the police chief in Upper Gwynedd Township, where Craven lives.
The North Penn High School 11th grader, 17, was recovering at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Some of his ordeal was pieced together during the police search and afterward, but one thing was certain: Craven could have been found faster if he didn't have the location function on his phone turned off.
When police tried to track his phone, they had to deal with a 3½-mile radius, Duffy said.
"That's a lot of neighborhoods. That's a lot of fields," Duffy said.
Craven hit his head during the accident and likely was in and out of consciousness, Duffy said. The airbag deployed, but he was not wearing his seat belt.
About 5:20 a.m. Monday, he texted his mother to say, "I love you." At some point he logged into Snapchat. This made police unsure as to what had happened.
"What really was happening was, he was out of it," Duffy said.
Helicopters from the Philadelphia Police Department and the Pennsylvania State Police joined the search but crews saw nothing.
In fact, the Audi was not visible even from the road, Duffy said.
Craven apparently stayed with his car on Monday, but had no water or food. At some point, probably unable to see the road himself, Craven wandered into the woods.
He was finally spotted Tuesday night near St. John Neumann Cemetery by Montgomery Township police and taken to CHOP to be treated for his head injury. His car was found Wednesday morning along Route 202 by a Warrington Township police officer.
Duffy wanted to use the opportunity to urge people to consider making their phones more trackable and not turn off GPS.