SANTA CLARITA, Calif. -- David Lavau's children drove slowly along the curved mountain road, stopping to peer over the treacherous drop-offs and call out for their father, missing for six days.
Then, finally, a faint cry: "Help, help."
Close to a week after his car plunged 200 feet into a ravine, Lavau, 68, was rescued Thursday by his three adult children, who took matters into their own hands after a detective told them that their father's last cellphone signal came from a rugged section of the Angeles National Forest.
As he lay injured in the woods next to his wrecked car, he survived by eating bugs and leaves and drinking creek water, a doctor said.
Lavau was in serious but stable condition Friday at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital with three rib fractures, a dislocated shoulder, a broken arm and fractures in his back, said emergency room physician Garrett Sutter.
Ranbir Singh, the hospital's trauma director, said Lavau told him he was driving home about 7 p.m. when he was temporarily blinded by the headlights of an oncoming car. He braked, but slowed little.
The car flipped and plunged down the embankment.
Lavau said he was unsure if he hit the other car, but a second car containing a body was found next to Lavau's vehicle. A Los Angeles police detective said the second car belongs to an 88-year-old man missing for two weeks.
Lavau spent the first night in his car and crawled out at daylight, finding a stream nearby and eating ants, Singh said.
He found a flare in the other car and tried to light it, but it was expired.
He also could not find his cellphone.
His children told NBC's "Today" show that after realizing he was missing, they contacted a Los Angeles County sheriff's detective, who was able to narrow Lavau's whereabouts through his most recent cellphone use, text messages and debit card purchases, to the sparsely populated area, about 50 miles north of downtown Los Angeles.
The children then organized themselves into a search party.
"We stopped at every ravine and looked over every hill, and then my brother got out of the car and we kept screaming, and the next thing we heard Dad saying, 'Help, help,' and there he was," Lisa Lavau said.