Couple, 4 kids lost in frigid Nevada heated rocks in fire to survive
The couple and four children who had been missing since Sunday night in the frigid mountains of northern Nevada were found safe Tuesday, due to the coordination of rescue crews and the family’s survival methods, including heating rocks in a fire to keep warm, local officials said.
The six were found “in fairly good shape,” Tuesday afternoon after crews had spent two nights searching for them, said Pershing County police dispatcher Leslie Steward.
James Glanton, 34, and Christina McIntee, 25, their two children, ages 3 and 4, and a niece, 10, and nephew, 4, were found in a spot on the mountain range where cell reception was sparse, Steward said. The volunteer rescuer who first located them had to drive to another location in order to alert the sheriff’s office of the discovery, she said.
Pershing County Sheriff’s Office got the word shortly before 12:30 p.m. (3:30 p.m. EST) that the family’s vehicle had been located, said Pershing County Sheriff Richard Machado. “The jeep rolled. When they found them, it was on its side,” and they were stranded in the vehicle “down off a little slope,” Steward said.
The silver Jeep the family was riding in was seen Sunday "doing wheelies or donuts" at a mining camp in Seven Troughs, Pershing dispatch supervisor Sheila Reitz said on Monday. The mountain range is 20 miles from their house, she added.
The region is mired in a deep freeze. Temperatures fell to minus 21 on the mountain range Sunday night, and were well below zero again Monday night into Tuesday, officials said.
Machado said the couple had not brought food or water with them on the outing, but used a spare tire as a container for a fire made from brush and wood they could find.
Chris Montes, a rescuer who first spotted the vehicle, told NBC affiliate KRNV that Glanton had built a fire so that he could heat rocks and bring them into the Jeep to keep the family warm.
U.S. Civil Air Patrol and a search and rescue team started looking for the couple and children immediately after they were reported missing, Machado said in a statement Monday. On Tuesday, he said a large part of the community had rallied around the operation, including local businesses, which provided food and drinks for the volunteers.
Nevada wing Civil Air Patrol Col. Timothy F. Hahn said the family was found “four miles from civilization,” and they survived because they did not attempt to trek that distance on foot. “They stayed with the vehicle. Otherwise, there would have been at least one recovery involved instead of a save,” Hahn said.
Hahn coordinated the 32 rescuers and seven Cessnas that Civil Air Patrol dispatched between the two days and said the team focused on areas without cell phone reception since the last indication of the family’s cell phone activity was early Sunday night. “Search and rescue will always be a matter of elimination — where are they not,” he said.
The aircraft, equipped with night vision, joined the Pershing County Sheriff’s office in combing the mountains Sunday and Monday, said Nevada wing Civil Air Patrol Maj. Tom Cooper.
“We are ecstatic,” Cooper said after the family was found Tuesday.
The couple and children, Evan Glanton, Chloe Glanton, Shelby Fitzpatrick and Tate McIntee, were transported to Pershing County General Hospital out of precaution, Steward said.
About 90 miles outside of Reno, Nev., the desperate search for a missing family has come to an end. It turns out the last-known signal on their cell phone helped lead search teams to a specific area. NBC's Miguel Almaguer reports.
Pershing County General Hospital CEO Patricia Bianchi said, “They had no frost bite just some exposure issues and dehydration.” She added that the six were “surrounded by family.”
“I’m relieved that God answered our prayers,” Shelby’s cousin, David Mosier told NBC affiliate KRNV's Van Tieu, outside the hospital Tuesday. “They just told me that they found them and that’s all I wanted to hear,” he said through tears.
“We are so happy that this story had such a wonderful outcome and we would like to thank all the many volunteers and other jurisdictions that provided the additional manpower, vehicles and aircraft that aided in the search for the family,” Machado said in a statement Tuesday night.
And Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval wrote in a tweet, "Very glad to hear the missing family in Lovelock has been found and they are safe! Thank you to all who worked so tirelessly to find them!"