Missing Nevada family found in 'pretty good shape'

6:16 PM, Dec 10, 2013   |    comments
Sierra Nevada Mountain Range
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Michael Winter, Emerson Marcus and Melanie Eversley
USA Today

A couple and four young children who survived two nights in sub-zero weather in a mountainous area of northern Nevada were found safe Tuesday morning by an old friend who had joined the search.

"They just said that they knew somebody was going to find them," said Chris Montes, who was among the 200 people involved in the search on the ground and in the air. "It's a miracle."

Authorities identified the group as James Glanton, 34; his girlfriend, Christina McIntee, 25; their two children, Evan and Chloe Glanton; and Shelby Fitzpatrick and Tate McIntee, a niece and nephew of McIntee. The children range in age from 3 to 10.

They became stranded Sunday after their Jeep Cherokee tipped over on an embankment during an outing to play in the snow around Seven Troughs, an abandoned gold mining town 25 miles from their home in Lovelock.

Pershing County Undersheriff Thomas Bjerke described the family members as being "in pretty good shape" from their frozen ordeal in the remote high desert they often visited.

"All are stable with no frostbite issues," said Patty Biachi, a spokeswoman for Pershing County General Hospital in Lovelock. "But there is a little exposure, of course."

Authorities began searching for the family members Sunday evening after they did not return or contact relatives or friends. The temperature in Lovelock dipped to 16 degrees below zero Monday night, the National Weather Service said, and it was probably colder in the mountains. Daytime highs reached 20 degrees.

Montes and two companions spotted the six from a ridgetop about 11 a.m. Tuesday (2 p.m. ET) and reached the group a half hour later after following footsteps in the snow.

"All I know is (James) did one heck of a job keeping those guys safe," Mantes said.

They had food and water, and Glanton burned the Jeep's tires for warmth.

"They gave all the food to the kids," said Lacy Constable, another rescuer. 

A signal from McIntee's cellphone directed rescuers to the Seven Troughs area, and Civil Air Patrol specialists helped narrow the search area, which is south of Black Rock Desert, home to the annual Burning Man festival.

"The cellphone forensics team pinpointed where they could not possibly be, and their efforts were very time-consuming," said Col. Tim Hahn, commander of the Nevada Wing of the Civil Air Patrol. "This morning they provided a key clue that redirected the search and led to the rescue."

Montes and others found them beside their vehicle west of Lone Mountain and near Seven Troughs Mine. The family told their rescuers they heard searchers blowing whistles and could see helicopters.

"They stayed together and that was the key that allowed them to live through this experience. You don't see that that often in search and rescue," said Paul Burke, of the Nevada Department of Public Safety, who directed the search Tuesday. "They did some pretty unusual things, heating up rocks and things. Staying together, that was a big deal."

Contributing: Associated Press; Martha Bellisle, Reno Gazette-Journal. Emerson Marcus writes for the Reno Gazette-Journal.

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