Utah couple, dog found alive after 12 days
February 7, 2008
SALT LAKE CITY ” A couple stranded for 12 days when their truck got stuck in the snow rationed what little food they had, started the truck periodically for heat and then set off on a three-day trek in search of help.
Thomas and Tamitha Garner were found Wednesday afternoon by a snowplow driver who was clearing a road and wasn’t even part of the search.
“It was absolutely wonderful to see that big yellow monster coming down the road,” said Tamitha Garner during a news conference with her husband at the hospital where they were treated for dehydration and frostbite.
The Garners described their ordeal and the resourcefulness they used to get through it, finally abandoning the shelter of the snowbound truck and setting off to find safety on Monday ” more than a week after getting stuck on Jan. 26.
Thomas Garner, an Eagle Scout, said he used the seat cushions from his pickup as snowshoes and his wife followed behind in tennis shoes, sometimes up to her waist in the snow.
“My family is what kept me going,” Tamitha said. “‘Hold on one more day. … One more day and I’ll be home.”
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The couple and their dog, Medusa, were on a trip to photograph wild horses. They were last seen Jan. 26 at a gas station in the eastern Nevada town of Panaca. Later that day the truck got stuck in the snow and they had no way to call for help from the desolate area between Cedar City and St. George.
They had left their home in the Salt Lake City suburb of Kearns two days before and relatives called when they hadn’t heard from them.
“We were out looking for the horses and the snow just got too deep and we couldn’t get the truck turned around and so we decided to hold up,” Thomas Garner said.
The Garners nibbled on the two boxes of granola bars they had brought for the trip and shared bottles of water until they decided to stop waiting out the search and go looking for help.
Remembering something he saw on a survival TV show, Thomas said he strapped the seat cushions to his feet with bungee cords and blazed a trail through the deep snow for his wife.
“The food was low, the water was just about gone, we had two frozen bottles of water left,” Tamitha said. “By that time we had actually started to eat dog food to survive, so yeah it was time to do something.”
Out in the open, they used a can of deodorant and lighter to ignite wood for fires during the freezing nights and hiked during the day. They finally came across the plow outside of Modena Canyon, about 60 miles west of Cedar City near the Iron and Beaver County line.
There had been an intensive air and ground search by Nevada and Utah authorities that failed to spot the couple or their truck. The area was blanketed with snow and some parts were accessible only by snowmobile.
Family members said they were ecstatic to hear of the rescue of Thomas, 40, and Tamitha, 38.
“We’re gonna kiss them and caress them and then give them a piece of our mind,” said Gerald Garner, Thomas’ father, on his way out the door to Cedar City, about 250 miles south of Salt Lake City.
Leroy Davenport, a rescuer involved in the search, died Sunday. Authorities believed he may have been exhausted after having to dig his snowmobile out of deep mountain snow on Saturday.
Ange Garner, Thomas’ sister-in-law, said the couple had learned of Davenport’s death and planned to attend his funeral Thursday.