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REAL SURVIVORS: Rescued family did some things right

By Ann Tatko-Peterson
Thursday, December 20th, 2007 at 12:59 pm in Health & Safety.

rescueThe Paradise family lost in the wilderness for three days got lucky. By now, most of us have heard the story (if you haven’t, check out John Simerman’s article in the Times). A father and his three children went into Lassen National Forest to cut down a Christmas tree Sunday and got lost. Yesterday, making one final pass before a winter storm moved in, a California Highway Patrol helicopter spotted the father. The family was rescued and left the hospital the same night.

Subsequently, we’ve heard what the family did wrong: they weren’t wearing heavy clothes or boots, brought no provisions (not even a flashlight) and had no map of the area. They weren’t reported missing until Monday morning when 12-year-old Joshua Dominguez didn’t arrive at school. No one realized sooner that there was cause for concern.

But, the family did quite a bit right, too. For starters, the father, Frederick, knew enough to stay put and wait for help. They used tree branches to write out “Help” and discarded clothing to draw attention to their sign. Frederick sheltered his children with branches the first night and found a rocky culvert to protect them during the next two nights. He rubbed his daughter’s blackened toes to help prevent frostbite. (And the fact that they suffered only minor frostbite is truly amazing.) They ate ice to avoid dehydration. Their safe return is a miracle, but their instincts are what really helped them come through this ordeal remarkably well.

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