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Drone's Find in Mountain Cave: Man on the Run for 17 Years

Chinese fugitive found barely able to communicate, his body 'devastated'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 30, 2019 9:35 AM CDT
Updated Oct 5, 2019 7:00 AM CDT
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Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Manifestive_Media)

(Newser) – In 2002, Song Jiang broke out of a prison camp in China, where he was serving a sentence for human trafficking. He wasn't seen for 17 more years—until earlier this month, when a drone finally found him in a cave in Yunnan province, per the BBC and Sky News. Authorities had long tried (and failed) to track Song down, but their first big break came in early September, when tips came in on the WeChat social media app on Song's general whereabouts. Ground searches in the mountains in back of his hometown turned up nothing, which is when drones were deployed to help—and success was soon had, when one of the drones spotted a blue steel tile on top of a cliff, with what looked like garbage outside the mouth of a small cave.

Officials moved in on the area on Sept. 19, per NBC News, and found an "unkempt old man," who turned out to be Song, now 63. His living accommodations were said to be less than 21 square feet, with a ceiling so low that most people couldn't stand up inside. Investigators say he got drinking water from a nearby river using plastic bottles, built fire with tree branches, and cut his own hair. What he hadn't done in a "long time," say officials—who note how his hard living had "devastated" his body—was bathe or wash his clothes. They add he had a hard time communicating with them because he'd been in solitude for so many years. Song likely isn't happy about being recaptured, but has more regular eating and bathing opportunities on the horizon: He's been sent back to jail. (Read more fugitive stories.)

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