An elderly married couple have been found seven days after getting lost in the woods during a Valentine’s sunset hike in California.
Carol Kiparsky, 77, and Ian Irwin, 72, were discovered in thick brush near Tomales Bay, northwest of San Francisco, California, on Saturday after a massive week-long rescue operation.
Marin County Sheriff’s Sergeant Brenton Schneider said it was “a miracle” after the search had turned into a recovery mission when cadaver dogs picked up possible leads on Thursday.
One of the teams had stopped for a break near a drainage area on Saturday morning when they heard the couple shouting for help.
Rescuers and their dogs had to crawl through thick vegetation to get to the couple who were suffering from slight hypothermia and Mr Irwin had severe thorn scratches and poison oak burns after lying over them so his wife was not stung.
They were airlifted to hospital and are “in amazing spirits”, the sheriff’s office said.
Police and volunteers started combing the woods around Inverness after the couple, from Palo Alto, failed to check out of their Airbnb on 15 February then did not show up at an appointment the next day, which sheriff’s officials said was highly out of character.
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Their phones and wallets were found by cleaners in the cottage and their car was parked outside.
They had gone for a walk to see the sunset on Valentine’s Day and taken a wrong turn so decided to get to water, hoping that would lead to civilisation, one of their sons said.
The couple, who did not have jackets as overnight temperatures reached below freezing level, survived by drinking water from a pond and eating vegetation.
Drones, dive teams and boats with radar and sonar were deployed as part of the mission to find them.
“They thought this was the end for them,” Sgt Schneider said.
“Carol and Ian’s survival is a miracle. Their family members are ecstatic, to say the least.”
Volunteer searcher Quincy Webster, 18, and a golden retriever called Groot were the first to get to the couple.
“We heard voices,” Mr Webster said.
“First we thought it was another team. But then they started yelling ‘help’.
“We looked at each other and we were like, ‘that’s them’. They were like, ‘thank God you found us. We’re so happy’.”
In a statement from the couple’s families, they said the couple will be “forever grateful for the hard work and dedication” of all the search and rescue volunteers and first responders for searching every day for them.
It said they “look forward to telling their story in time” about how they “survived the unimaginable seven nights in the Inverness wilderness”.
Mr Irwin is a leading Parkinson’s disease researcher and was on the team that originally identified a chemical responsible for the outbreak of the disease in heroin addicts in 1982.
Ms Kiparsky is a prominent linguist and has written several books on language.