Woman who was trapped in car faces long recovery

Woman who was trapped in car faces long recovery »Play Video
Tanya Rider is seen in this undated family photo.
SEATTLE (AP) - A woman who spent more than a week trapped in the mangled wreckage of her sport-utility vehicle is expected to make a full recovery, but one of her doctors said Tuesday that she'll likely remain hospitalized for weeks.

Tanya Rider, 33, was admitted to Harborview Medical Center in critical condition with kidney failure and a host of other injuries last Thursday, after authorities used cell phone records to help find her vehicle in a ravine off a highway south of Seattle.

By Tuesday, she was upgraded to satisfactory condition, moved out of the intensive care unit, was breathing well on her own, and her kidneys had rebounded to normal function, Dr. Joseph Cuschieri told a news conference.

Her injured left shoulder was healing well, and doctors were keeping a close eye on her left leg, which they had to cut open to relieve pressure that built up in her muscle tissue, Cuschieri said.

She will need additional surgery to her leg - possibly skin grafts - as well as extensive physical therapy and counseling to make a full recovery, Cuschieri said.

"She's having difficulty coping with everything that's gone on. As you can imagine, it's pretty traumatic, so we're starting to get other specialists involved" to counsel her through the emotional anguish, Cuschieri said.

Contrary to a case file the King County sheriff's office released on Monday, Rider's husband, Tom, insisted he never told authorities that only his wife had access to a USAA Federal Savings Bank account.

"I was talking fast, but I did not say I didn't have access to a joint banking account," Tom Rider told The Associated Press.

Because there had been transfers and withdrawals in the account after Tanya Rider was last seen on the morning of Sept. 20, investigators thought it possible she was missing voluntarily. It was several days before they learned those transactions had been made by Tom Rider.

Investigators pursued other leads until the misunderstanding was cleared up last Wednesday.

The account activity also prevented the sheriff's office from having probable cause to obtain the cell phone records that could have more quickly narrowed down her location, King County sheriff's spokesman John Urquhart has said. Verizon Communications Inc. refuses to turn over such records unless a police agency promises to provide a search warrant within 24 hours.

Once detectives were able to obtain the cell phone records last Thursday, the records indicated that Rider could be within a 3- to 5-mile radius of a particular tower. A section of Rider's normal work route fell within that radius and detectives found her car less than two hours later.

The sheriff's office also contends that initially the bank wrongly told investigators that only Tanya Rider had access to the account.

Urquhart said a bank representative later called the department to apologize for the mistake and for delays in responding to requests for information about activity on the account.

Yet USAA on Tuesday denied that it provided the sheriff's office with any information about the account, including who was on the account.

"That the King County sheriff's department should try to deflect criticism of its handling of the Rider investigation is irresponsible and misleading," USAA spokesman Paul Berry said in a a statement.

Urquhart fired back: "My suggestion to USAA Bank is to get your story straight."

Tom Rider has voiced outrage that the search for his wife took so long, but said he's grateful that once misunderstandings got cleared up, the sheriff's office found her.

While his wife spent most of Tuesday resting, he said he planned to hand-deliver a letter to Gov. Chris Gregoire's office pushing for reforms that would make it easier for people signing up for cell phone plans to say they want their records released to authorities if they go missing.

"You have a right to privacy - why not the right to choose to be found?" he said.

He said he's happy with the progress his wife has made so far, but stressed that her state of mind remains fragile. "She's doing better, but she also has times where she remembers something that's very traumatic and she doesn't even want to talk," he said.

Tom Rider said he planned to replace the Honda Element his wife crashed. He said it was fully insured and that while he expects to be eligible for a replacement at no cost, he's more than willing to pay for one addition: a GPS locator.