Wash. Couple Rescued after 4 Days Trapped in Snow

Saturday, 26 Feb 2011 08:39 PM

 

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SEATTLE (AP) — John and Patricia Norvell kept thinking someone would come help them as they sat trapped for four days on a secluded, forest road near Mount St. Helens with only jelly beans to eat and snow for water.

But as the third and fourth days approached, John said he felt dark at times, even as his wife's spirits remained good.

The 63-year-olds from Vancouver, Wash., played cribbage, spooned snow into water bottles, and ran the engine just a few minutes at a time to stay warm and save gas. Sometimes they turned the ignition just enough to run their heated seats off the battery.

Their ordeal, which began when the 63-year-olds' Jeep Grand Cherokee slid into a ditch, ended Friday when they were spotted by campers.

"'Good Samaritan' doesn't even begin to cover these guys, what they did," John Norvell said in a phone interview Saturday. "They shoveled us out and they pulled us out, they gave me five gallons of gas and they didn't want nothing in return. I'll never forget these guys."

They were 30 miles from the nearest town when their SUV slid into a waist-deep ditch on Monday during a drive amid the snow-freighted evergreens to try out a new camera that John received from the Frito-Lay plant in Vancouver, where he worked for 38 years before retiring in January.

About 2 feet of snow fell and the temperature dipped into the teens at night.

By the middle of the week, their family was worried. They went to the couple's home to find their cats unfed and called authorities. Their granddaughter's husband, Leland Foster, said relatives frantically began trying to figure out where they might have gone. They hadn't used their credit card since Saturday.

"No one had any clue," Foster said. "Normally they tell you, 'Hey we're going to drive to the beach today,' or 'We're going to go here.' They had talked about maybe going to the seaside or Port Angeles. We called every hotel in Port Angeles. It was a dead end everywhere we went."

The couple said they had tried to call their family earlier in the day Monday while having lunch in Cougar and tell relative they would be driving into the mountains. But they couldn't get cell phone reception.

They drove up a single-lane Forest Service road and finally decided they had gone too far. Norvell said he started to back the vehicle down the road, hit a rut and slid into the ditch.

They made a list of what kind of supplies they wished they had — shovel, food, more water — so they'd remember to pack that in the future.

"We talked about what we were going to do if things got worse," he said. "I was having anxiety attacks. I had to take such deep breaths. She kept trying to tell me she wanted to walk out. My gut was to stay in the vehicle. It was warm. It had gas. It was sheltered."

John, who had grown tired of the jelly beans by on the second day, said he thought the snow had helped him and his wife endure the ordeal.

"Every time my tummy growled I just drank more water."

They tested their blood-sugar a few times a day. Their readings had never been so good.

John said their rescuers came Friday afternoon as he got out of his SUV to use the bathroom. There was a woman in the road walking over to check on them, and she was accompanied by three men who all had Toyota trucks. They had dropped off some gear at a nearby cabin and were out driving around when they came across the stranded vehicle covered in snow.

On the way home the Norvells pulled into a gas station, where they ran into an EMT. They talked to him for a few minutes; he told them they seemed fine.

The couple will celebrate their 39th wedding anniversary early next month.

"I tell you what, we are closer now than ever," John Norvell said.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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