The family that has been missing in the Nevada mountains were found alive Tuesday afternoon. Two adults and four children were taken to the hospital for mild hypothermia and dehydration and are expected to be released today. They were lucky.
They did things wrong that put them at risk and they did things right that saved their lives, but not one news reporter or Search and Rescue (SAR) person has mentioned the one tool made specifically to contact SAR when you are out of cell phone range and need help.
Why do people not know about Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs)? This entire situation would have been resolved by Sunday night if they had a PLB and nobody would be in the hospital.
Wrong Survival Decisions
On Sunday afternoon, James Glanton and Christina MacIntee took their two children and MacIntee’s niece and nephew to Trinity Canyon in the Seven Troughs Mountain Range, to play in the snow. We have not yet heard about the decision and circumstance that left their jeep shinny side down. Bad move. That decision put their lives at risk.
They used technology (the jeep) to get 15 miles out of town. When they rolled the jeep, they lost that technology and their easy ride back to town.This is exactly how most survival situations begin. We assume we will be back to civilization by a certain time and then something happens to the vehicle.
What Else Would You Pack?
If you knew you vehicle was going to break down, what else would you take with you? We always take food, water, camp stove, fuel bottle and sleeping bags and we also include our PLB (Read more about how PLBs work). Our friends always ask, why we have so much “junk” in car or truck. It’s because we are constantly going into areas without cell service. The price to be paid for a vehicle that fails to start or gets stuck is too high. I don’t want to tell the story of how we survived for a week in the back country waiting to be rescued. Not going to happen.
Correct Survival Decisions
So, what did James do right? First, they left word with relatives, so they knew when they should have returned. The relatives may not have known exactly where they were, but the search started on Sunday night. Second, James built a fire and kept it going. It was smart to stay with the vehicle and keep everyone together. It was also smart to use the spare tire as fuel and to heat rocks that were put inside the jeep, which was still useful as a shelter.
It was very cold those two nights and the low temperatures in Lovelock was -16°F on the Dec 9 and -10°F on the 10th, but it was probably even colder in the canyon where they were stuck. The shelter and fire probably saved their lives.
Search and Rescue were able to get an estimate of their location based upon the last signal received by a cell tower. Wouldn’t it be better to have SAR looking for you based upon a continuous signal from your PLB?
Seven More Cases Where PLB May Have Saved Lives
- In December 2012, Paula Lane and Roderick Clifton became stuck in the snow on a remote road south of Lake Tahoe. They waited for four days before Roderick left to get help. Six days later, Lane was found alive but Clifton was found dead.
- In Sept. 2012, 74 year old Yoshio Hosobuchi, a retired neurosurgeon and his 61 year old wife were canyoneering in a slot canyon in Zion National Park. While rappelling down a falls, he became stuck while hanging upside down. His wife was not able to free him or find help until the next day, which was too late.
- In March 2012, James Klemovich (76) and Laszlo Szabo (75) were stranded in the desert (also Pershing County Nevada). After 10 days, Lemovich was found alive, but Szabo, who left to find cell service was found dead.
- In Oct 2010, James Nelson started out on a five day, 25 mile hike in the Holy Cross Wilderness area (Eagle County, Colorado). He never completed his hike. When his body was found 21 months later, his journal indicated he may have been suffering from altitude sickness.
- In January 2008, Thomas and Tamitha Garner were stuck in the snow on the Utah-Nevada border west of Cedar City, Utah. They spent the first nine days in their vehicle until they were down to their last granola bar. They made snowshoes from the seat cushions and walked 15 miles in three days. They were able to make fire with carburetor cleaner and spray deodorant. They were rescued on the 12th day.
- In January 2007, Reed and Loa Fae Palmer died after their car was stuck in the snow on hwy 29 between Joe’s Valley reservoir and Ephraim Utah. This road is only passable between June or July until September or October. They left the vehicle and tried to walk out.
- On November 25, 2006 James and Kati Kim with their two children got stuck in the snow 16 miles up a forest road 33 miles from Galice, Oregon. They waited for rescue until Dec 2 (7 days later), then James left to find help. Two days later, Kati and her children were found near the car after being stranded for nine days. James was found dead.
Case Where PLB Would Have Summoned Help Sooner
- In Sept. 2013, Gene Penaflor became separated from his hunting partner while deer hunting in the Mendocino National Forest, in northern California. He had fallen and had been knocked unconscious. His partner reported him missing the next day and a search party began was organized the day after that. They found no sign of Penaflor after four days of searching with dogs and by air. The search was halted for several days because of storms. After each storm passed, the search began again. After 19 days, other hunters heard his cries for help and he was finally rescued. He would have been found the first day if he had a PLB.
- In July 2013, Marco Lavoie was on a solo canoe trip with his dog for three months in a remote area of northern Quebec. When he failed to check in with family in October, they called for help and he was rescued two days later. A bear had destroyed his canoe and eaten his food in August. When found, Lavoie was near death and probably survived because he killed and ate his dog.
- In Nov. 2012, Brad Lambert drove into the Manitoba woods to deer hunt. He made a wrong turn and then his vehicle got stuck. His cell phone quickly died. He stayed with his vehicle and made signal fires for airplanes to see and fired shots from his rifle when he heard other people, but finally, he had to walk back out. Lots of unanswered questions here, but Lambert spent 21 days in the wilderness and lost 40 lbs.
- In the past 40 years, more than 30 people have been lost and never found in the mountains near Eugene Oregon.
A PLB costs less than $300. Any one of these people would have gladly paid much more than that to be rescued on the first day. Any relative of these people would have paid much more for them to be rescued sooner. PLBs aren’t just for extreme adventurers. None of these people left the road, but got stuck and instantly found themselves in a survival situation.
Buy a PLB before your next adventure or buy one for a friend or relative. Don’t wait for the latest and greatest models. The simplest, oldest models will save lives and reduce unnecessary suffering if you ever needed help and couldn’t dial 911.