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Drunk train-hopper recovers in Canada

An intoxicated man who hopped on a train in Wetaskiwin, south of Edmonton, for a brief ride home would likely have frozen to death if he hadn't called for help with his cellphone, RCMP told CBC News.

At around 3:45 a.m. Friday, RCMP received a cellphone call from the 29-year-old man, who, 45 minutes earlier, had climbed aboard a slow-moving train about 70 kilometres south of Edmonton.

He had intended to hop off after a few blocks, but the train sped up, and he was unable to climb off.

The man realized he was becoming hypothermic and managed to call the RCMP.

"He was very lucky that he had an operating cellphone," said Sgt. Patrick Webb of the RCMP's Southern Alberta District. "Had the phone failed, had the battery died, or if he had dropped it, we very easily could be investigating a fatality."

Working with both CP and CN Rail, RCMP were able to determine the man was on one of two southbound trains.

The two trains were eventually stopped, in different towns south of Edmonton, and police determined which was the right train by listening through the man's cellphone as the train whistle was sounded.

RCMP then walked through the snowdrifts alongside the train near Blackfalds, 100 kilometres from where he had climbed on, trying to find the man. By this time, the man's physical state rendered him unable to call for help.

"When he was found, he was clearly intoxicated," said Webb. "But at the same time, he was [so] hypothermic that he was drifting into unconsciousness."

The man had been riding between two cars, exposed to the wind and the -24 C temperatures that night.

Emergency medical personnel determined that his core temperature was low enough that his internal organs were beginning to shut down.

The man was taken to hospital in Lacombe, where he was treated and released, RCMP said.

(This item was distributed Dec. 15, 2009, by the CBC News.)

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