Family Snowbound For 17 Days Found Alive, Reunited - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

3/22/06-Glendale, Oregon

Family Snowbound For 17 Days Found Alive, Reunited

A family that disappeared more than two weeks ago after leaving for a trip in an RV are found alive in a remote area of southwestern Oregon. Two adults were found after they left the RV, which had gotten stuck in snow, to seek help. Hours later, rescuers located the others and they were reunited.

Inside their snowbound RV, the family's supplies and fuel were running low, and news reports indicated that a search for the six missing relatives had been called off.

"We had fuel and food, but we were running short. We were rationing," said Elbert Higginbotham, one of the missing.

The family decided to send two members out for help, hoping to end more than two weeks trapped in the snowy wilderness. It worked. On Tuesday, 17 days after they first vanished during a trip to the Oregon coast, they were rescued.

All six -- Pete Stivers, 29, and Marlo Hill-Stivers, 31; their children Sabastyan, 9, and Gabrayell, 8; and Stiver's mother and stepfather, Elbert and Becky Higginbotham -- were reunited in Glendale, about 80 miles north of the California border.

"I'm so proud of my family," Elbert Higginbotham said. "They stuck together. They didn't lose it."

The family's trouble began when they became lost on their way home and got stuck in the mountains in up to 4 feet of snow at about 3,800 feet.

After the family was reported missing, rescue teams from Oregon and California scoured the two closest routes from Ashland to the coast. But police didn't know exactly where they had been heading, and they eventually called off the search when there were no leads.

The two children passed the evenings by reading jokes from the Reader's Digest to the adults, Higginbotham said. The family lived through the ordeal on dehydrated food and other provisions. The area is too remote for cell phone service.

Stivers and his wife decided Monday morning to go seek help, his stepfather said, leaving with a tent, wool blankets, tuna fish, honey and two hand-warmers.

On Tuesday morning, a U.S. Bureau of Land Management worker found the couple.

Later, rescue workers in a helicopter made contact with the other four, said Sgt. David Marshall, spokesman for the Douglas County Sheriff's Department. Snow machines were sent to pick them up.

"They were in pretty good shape for being out there as long as they had been," Chief Rick Mendenhall told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Wednesday.

Stivers and Hill-Stivers ran up to a van, as it pulled into town with the two children and with Stivers' mother and stepfather.

The reunion was carried live on KGW-TV.

"I love you baby," Marlo Hill-Stivers told her daughter, Gabrayell, 8.

"I love you too, mommy," she replied.

Peter Stivers rested his hands on the shoulders of his 9-year-old son, Sabastyan.

"He had fun. They enjoyed it," Peter Stivers said. "They didn't know we were in trouble."

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