WOMAN survives two days in overturned car

Monday, June 4th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MARIETTA, Okla. (AP) _ A trip to the airport nearly cost an 86-year-old woman her life. As it is, Wanda Irene McKinnis is just fine after surviving nearly 48 hours in her submerged car.

``She's unbelievable,'' said Melinda Persons, a nurse at Love County Mercy Hospital. ``She has no injuries, she's just kind of beat up and she had a hair full of mud.''

McKinnis, who lives in Achille in Bryan County, drove to Dallas on Thursday to pick up her husband. After failing to find him at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, McKinnis headed home again.

At about 11:30 p.m., her 1987 Pontiac Firebird left Oklahoma 32 and flipped into a creek about two-tenths of a mile west of Interstate 35 in Love County.

The car, which couldn't be seen from the road, landed upside down in the creek. McKinnis maneuvered until her head was in what she called ``a bubble'' of air.

``I was just sitting there in a weed patch with bugs all about me,'' she said. ``I was thorough about getting the bugs away from me. I'm not a person that likes bugs.''

Meanwhile her husband, whose plane did arrive, had to take a taxi back home when he was unable to find his wife. When he got home and found her missing, he notified authorities.

Persons said McKinnis told health care workers she got lost and stopped for gasoline. Leaving the gas station, she drove off the roadway.

``Had we gotten the rains we were supposed to, she would have drowned,'' Persons said.

McKinnis didn't eat or drink during the 48-hour ordeal, drifting in and out of consciousness.

At one point, she said, she began to bargain with the only one who might have been watching.

``I'm not a churchgoer,'' she said, ``but I promised Him I might start to church.''

After a while, she said, she began to hallucinate. ``I thought there was little men down there. I seen people out there and they weren't out there.''

Help finally did arrive just after 11 p.m. Saturday after passers-by saw the car in the water and notified authorities.

She was taken to the hospital in Marietta, where all she wanted was ``a nice and dry bed, because in that cold water I was soaked and shriveled.''

The woman didn't sound Sunday as though she was ready to quit driving.

``Have you seen the Firebird?'' she asked. ``I just wonder how bad it is.''