Lost family huddled for three days before rescue

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Beer Monster

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(CNN) Lost family huddled for three days before rescue

A father and his three children lost for three days in the snowy California woods used sticks to spell out the word "Help" and warmed their feet inside each other's shirts to help stave off frostbite before their rescue. The family had gotten lost after going into the woods Sunday to cut down a Christmas tree.


Frederick Dominguez took this photo of his son, Christopher, warming his feet during their ordeal.

The four sought shelter from the heavy snow in a culvert and removed their sodden socks in an effort to stay warm and dry while they waited for rescue, according to the helicopter pilots who found them.

Frederick Dominguez said that during the three-day ordeal, he and his children slept inside a log for warmth and ripped apart their shirts to wrap their wet, freezing feet.

"You just go to survival mode," he said. "Every parent would do that. You would do anything, sacrifice yourself, because these are your kids."

Dominguez and his children -- Christopher, 18; Lexi, 14; and Joshua, 12 -- were reported missing Monday night by Dominguez's former wife and the children's mother, Lisa Sams, according to police in Paradise, California, a town of 27,000 people about 90 miles north of Sacramento. Watch the family talk about their "scary" ordeal »

"I'm glad I'm home. Praise God," Dominguez told reporters after exiting a chopper at the search command post. "It was awful."

Asked how he survived, he replied, "Jesus Christ."

Dominguez said he used branches and sticks to spell out the word "Help" near the culvert, where the three slept the last two nights -- at times sleeping with their feet inside each other's shirts.

He said his daughter was the first to hear a California Highway Patrol helicopter overhead. He said he ran though several feet of snow barefooted to wave it down.

"When they turned around, man, I was just praising God and saying, 'Thank you Lord, thank you Lord,' because I knew we had made it," he said.

Police vehicles equipped with snow chains rumbled up mountain roads to help conduct the search, which also involved a snowmobile and dogs. More than 80 searchers scoured the woods Wednesday until the four were found about 1 p.m. (4 p.m. ET).

Officer Steve Ward said he was piloting the helicopter out ahead of bad weather when he spotted Dominguez coming out of the culvert and waving. "We were very lucky that we just saw this guy at the last second."

Paramedic Flight Officer Dave White, who was with Ward, said that after the two shut down the helicopter and waved the family over, all four came running. "The little girl was in tears," he said.

White said the family was found north of where ground crews were searching. The pilots could see the "Help" sign they had made with twigs on a nearby four-wheel-drive road, he said.

Christopher Dominguez told CNN's Anderson Cooper the family got lost Sunday searching for a tree, which they had chopped down but later abandoned. He said they didn't have food, heavy coats or other provisions to help prepare for the cold nights.

"We weren't prepared at all," he said. "We just thought we were going to go up to the mountains, get our tree and go back home. It didn't turn out that way."

After the family failed to locate their vehicle, he said, snow and darkness began to fall.

At that point, Lexi Dominguez said, "I started freaking out."

"It was really, really scary," she said.

"I just remember walking and walking and being like, we're not going to make it," Lexi said. And as they huddled for warmth, Christopher Dominguez said, his sister sang songs to help pass the time until help arrived.

"We were all just happy, happy to be rescued," Christopher Dominguez said late Wednesday, huddled with his siblings under blankets in their home.

"I feel good, just happy to be home," said Joshua Dominguez. "Because I didn't think we were going to make it."

All four appeared to be in good condition as they were brought by chopper to the command post and taken to ambulances.

Wendy Wilson, the children's aunt, told CNN the two younger children had some frostbite on their toes and a touch of hypothermia, but were expected to make a full recovery.

Butte County Search and Rescue dispatcher Madde Watts said, "They had angels with them, for sure."

The search riveted those in Paradise and beyond.

Mayor Alan White, whose son played soccer on the same team as Joshua last year, said he and many others in and around Paradise have cut Christmas trees in the same place where the family vanished. When winter weather sours there, he said, people in the woods can get lost quickly.

"If you're 50 feet from your car, you might not be able to find it," he said.

Although police found the family's car, it offered no clues as to where they might have gone.

The inaccessible area is beyond the reach of cell phones, authorities have said.


Paradise High principal Mike Lerch said students had volunteered to help in the search. "This is a good family," he said.

Christopher Dominguez had graduated from the school a few months ago, Lerch said, and Lexi is a sophomore there. Joshua attends Paradise Intermediate School.

Link. Videos and photos on the website.
 

Mike Ameling

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Cluesless city idiots, wandering around out in the woods/mountains in search of a romanticized dream, and then getting themselves into trouble.

It happens waaaay too often!

And the few "survival" skills they employed were far far below simple basic stuff.

They got lucky - big time!

And now think about all the people that risked their own lives/health to search for them to bail their sorry behinds out! And the expenses incurred by the sheriff/rescue/medical people involved. They need to send the whole bill to this guy - for all the cost of the helicopter, vehicles, fuel, wages, used to save him and his kids from his own stupidity.

Sorry for the rant. Too many clueless idiots out there. These people need to feel the consequences of their personal actions - either in paying the costs of the gov'mnt finding/saving their sorry butts, or by feeding the ravens.

Mikey - that grumpy ol' blacksmith out in the Hinterlands
 

John Fenna

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Oct 7, 2006
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Hey - not so heavy man! - It gave the rescue boys a nice couple of days out in the woods, and the Sherrifs boys time away from chasing armed crims....
But pillocks the family were - and, yes, make them liable for the expenses! Call it "school Fees" as hopefully they will learn something from it all.
Accidents do happen but going out that ill equiped shows a certain level of stupidity, almost criminal negligence.
 

spamel

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Feb 15, 2005
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In some ways, I agree. If they had been equipped with good outdoor gear, a map and compass and a few other savoury items, then they should be rescued and let off scott free. They would then have made every effort to take care of themselves, but still needed to be rescued.

If they are in a place like that in normal city clothing without a shelter, sleeping gear or a map and compass, then they went woefully unprepared and deserve to get a fine of some sort to stop others from making the same stupid mistakes. Rescue teams should be there for when something goes wrong, not to bail imbeciles out who shouldn't be there in the first place and couldn't take a few simple basic precautions.

I'm glad they lived, but can't help feeling that the gene pool would have been better off without them!
 

spamel

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Also, I think to get in a situation like that and then turn to God to bail you out is a bit stupid! Say what you want about a persons' personnal faith and belief, but doesn't the Bible say not to test your God? Seems like they did to me!
 

Tengu

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Jan 10, 2006
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Um, hadnt they heard of the concept of `fire` yet?

And what are the laws concerning tree harvesting in that area anyway?
 

stotRE

New Member
Um, hadnt they heard of the concept of `fire` yet?

And what are the laws concerning tree harvesting in that area anyway?

They probably thought that making a fire would have landed them in trouble,better to freeze to death than get a rollocking from some forest ranger.:rolleyes:

This happens alot more than people realise,ego gets in the way of common sense........and then you die.
 

spamel

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Feb 15, 2005
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Dumb Father said:
"You just go to survival mode, every parent would do that. You would do anything, sacrifice yourself, because these are your kids."

Yup, I agree, I would do anything such as packing a bergen with kit in case it went wrong and my kids could stay warm and fed. He even admits that he wasn't prepared, they had the means to take down trees, as that is what they went up there to do, but the didn't create any sort of shelter? I would have taken a bunch of trees down, and created some sort of shelter from the ground and the sky. Fire would have been on the go, and buggrr what the authorities say.
 

Mike Ameling

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Jan 18, 2007
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Some places do allow cutting of live trees - usually not. But that doesn't stop too many people from ... driving up into the mountains to go cut a christmas tree. It's that old "romantic" notion or image they are trying to create for their kids.

The sad truth is that almost all of the possible "christmas trees" that they might find when driving "up into the mountains" are 3 to 10 times the size of any tree they might want. They would only use the top 6 to 10 or so feet of it, but would cut down a tree 25 to 30 feet tall!

They headed up into the mountains prepared as if they were driving to the mall - except they brought along a saw or axe. They also headed up there when any weather report was telling people about the storm moving in - and not to travel out into the "wilds". Then they got "lost" and couldn't find their way back to their vehicle. And then it started to snow.

Way too many bad choices were made, and continued to be made. They are being praised for ... surviving. But that "father" should be charged with Child Endangerment for his bad decisions putting his kids into harms way.

At the very least, they should have to pay for the cost of their rescue.

Over the years, I've had to help out waaay too many people who went out into bad weather and remote places, and made a lot of bad choices along the way. Most were clueless - because they think and act like we're all living in some version of a "padded cell" where everybody else is out there to protect us from ourselves. People no longer seem to think that they are responsible for the consequences of their own actions/decisions. Too much of the "gene pool" needs a heavy dose of bleach!

Just my grumpy thoughts to share. Take them as such.

Mikey - yee ol' grumpy blacksmith out in the Hinterlands
 

jojo

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Aug 16, 2006
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http://edition.cnn.com/2007/US/12/20/family.found/index.html#cnnSTCPhoto
looking closer at the pics they made, I realised they had a electric saw with them!
Now I dont want to offend the millions of american citizens still using hand tools, but isnt this SO typical?

I haven't used one of these battery powered saws, but if necessary,could it not still be used even when the battery is flat? by moving it back and forth? Would be better than freezing? But then they probably did not have even matches :confused: Perhaps a battery operated lighter?:D
 
G

Glade

Guest
'They' weren't stupid, and 'they' weren't idiots. Three of them were just kids, following their dad because they assumed dad knew what he was doing, because that's the way that kids think. The father was reckless and the father was irresponsible - the kids weren't.
 
G

Glade

Guest
I wasn't aware that anybody had been convicted for stealing anything - if they have then I assume it will be the father who is culpable. The children aren't to blame for the sins of the father, any more than they are responsible for his recklessness in leading them up there in the first place.
 

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