After accident, N.H. politician wandered in daze, wife says

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PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP) – A congressional hopeful wrecked his car and wandered a mile in a daze, swimming across a river and then huddling under leaves for warmth until he was found alive a day later, officials and relatives said.

Gary Dodds, 41, was taken to Portsmouth Hospital to be treated for hypothermia late Thursday. His wife, Cynthia, said Friday that he was doing well but had only foggy memories of his ordeal and “definitely had a good bump to the head.”

Dodds crashed on the Spaulding Turnpike on Wednesday evening, but emergency workers who arrived a few minutes later found his car empty. When Dodds failed to come home or contact his family, authorities began a search by air and on foot.

“He believes he may have swerved to miss a deer or something in the road,” Cynthia Dodds told WMUR-TV. “He jumped out of the vehicle. He thought it was on fire.”

After that, “He remembers he was in water over his head,” she said.

She said he recalls crawling, covering himself with pine needles and staying under a tree to conserve energy. He was cold and hungry, she said.

Fish and Game Lt. John Wimsatt said at some point Dodds swam across the Bellamy River. He was slipping in and out of consciousness when a volunteer and her search dog found him, Wimsatt said.

The woman said Dodds was about 100 yards from some houses and had covered himself with leaves to stay warm. He called out to her as she approached.

Cynthia Dodds said her husband is an emergency medical technician who would normally know not to leave an accident scene.

When asked if he had been drinking, she said no, describing Dodds as “the straightest, cleanest guy you’ll ever meet,” who doesn’t drink or smoke or have any medical conditions.

Dodds, who has two daughters, is the chief financial officer for Accent Magazine and serves on the Rye school board. He’s also a volunteer firefighter.

A Democrat, he is one of several candidates campaigning to unseat U.S. Rep. Jeb Bradley, a Republican. Dodds released a statement on his campaign Web site, thanking everyone who searched for him and adding that the First District needs a leader.

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