'They literally saved our lives': Search and Rescue finds missing couple
LANE COUNTY, Ore. - 2016 was a record year for Lane County Search and Rescue crews, with more than 170 calls in just one year.
Mother nature in Oregon is both a beauty and a beast. Lane County has hundreds of miles of trails thousands of miles of forest roads.
"Lots of people go outdoors having a good time recreating," Lane County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue coordinator Tim Chase said. "A lot of the trails can get pretty hard to follow."
Getting lost can happen to anyone.
Braedon Howard and Allison Prokop understand how easy it is to need rescuing. They are both experienced hikers, but for the first time their day hike near the Willamette National Forest in February turned dangerous.
"Certainly never crossed my mind when we were up there hiking that people die up there," said Prokop.
“You hear those stories all of the time. We never thought we'd be one of those stories," Howard said.
Howard said it was a gorgeous day when they went for their hike.
“But we didn't look at the next day because we didn't expect to be up there the next day," Howard said.
But the couple ended up staying another day when their car got caught in the snow as they tried to leave the mountain after hiking.
"Once you get into to two, three feet of snow, not even a big truck's not getting through that," said Howard.
Friends roughly knew where they were, but couldn't find them. So after sleeping in the car overnight they walked to try and meet their friends on a road.
"Looked at a map that we pulled up on our phone that gave us an idea of how far it was we didn't realize the elevation on it though and we started off with what we thought was going to be a five, six-mile hike turned into more like a twelve-mile hike,” said Howard.
“We were definitely wet and hypothermic at that point," added Prokop.
Thirty-six hours and two Search and Rescue crews later, the pair was finally found.
"Best set of headlights I've ever seen in my life," said Prokop.
“For me, it's a big relief," said Chase, thinking of the moments they finally find a missing people.
For Prokop and Howard, it’s a relieving end to a very scary ordeal, but the couple's experience isn't unusual.
Chase said getting lost or stranded in the woods is very easy to do if you don't have the right survival skills.
NBC 16's Megan Shinn tested out how prepared she was for the elements. She headed out to hike just for the day with a little backpack because she likes like to travel light. She had a bit of water, some food, and an extra charger for her phone.
"So a lot of our calls come in, in the very late evening," said Chase.
When the sun set, Shinn had no idea where she was. Chase said the first thing to do is go to your car if possible.
If you can’t find your car then Chase suggests taking an inventory of your belongings and thinking about what you can do with them.
Shinn didn't have much but she did have a cell phone.
Chase said if you get lost or stranded, call search and rescue sooner than later.
"Try dialing 9-1-1 even if you don't have any service," he said.
Chase said the three most important things you need to remember for survival are items for shelter, fire and signaling.
Chase said an orange trash bag can easily become an emergency shelter. Also, bright orange is a great color to use because it's easy to spot in the dark.
Then he pulled out a little backpacker's tarp to lay over a tree and build a shelter tied down with string and twigs. Finally, he said matches or a ferrocerium rod could easily start 500 fires with a simple scrape.
The main idea is that survival starts at home so think about what you pack in your bag and what you wear. Chase suggests wearing synthetic material clothes.
Shinn was missing a few key items, but thankfully got some help from Chase. Items he said can mean the difference between life and death.
By the end of it, Chase said Shinn would make it through the night.
Howard and Prokop say they learned their lesson on how you can never be too prepared.
"Her being a medical professional, and my time in the military, we both learned the little things we could kind of do to stay that off, but you know, somebody without that knowledge, you know, take as many tools as you can with you," said Howard. "Huge shout out to these guys, they literally saved our lives.”