Lucia Gonzalez / AP
Friday, Dec. 13, 2013 | 4:03 p.m.
A rescuer nearly found a family stranded in subzero temperatures on day one of what turned out to be a three-day search, but he turned back without finding them because of treacherous conditions, authorities said.
The deputy was within a quarter mile of the Lovelock couple and four children on Sunday, two days before they were found in good condition near their overturned Jeep, Pershing County Emergency Management Director Charles Sparke told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Sparke said the deputy saw tracks, but didn't follow them all the way because the dirt road was steep and he didn't have backup in case he got stuck.
"We were trying to keep some level of safety, and we didn't want one vehicle going up by itself," Pershing County Sheriff Richard Machado told the newspaper. "We tried to team them up; if one got stuck, there was another to keep us from going into another search."
The group — including James Glanton, 34, his girlfriend Christina McIntee, 25, two of their children and a niece and nephew of McIntee — went to the area about 100 miles northeast of Reno on Sunday to play in the snow. Their Jeep turned over in the soft ground and left them stranded, but they survived temperatures that dropped to around 16 degrees by keeping a fire burning and sheltering in the vehicle.
The couple and the children, who ranged in age from 3 to 10, were found by volunteers on Tuesday. They were treated for mild exposure and dehydration, and were all out of the hospital by Thursday.
"I don't blame the deputy for missing (the family)," Sparke said. "Only fault is he didn't check in with me on his way out to tell me he didn't complete it. We would have fired someone back out to complete it."
Sparke said hundreds of rescuers showed up to volunteer on Monday, and not all reported where they had searched.
Authorities said they planned to do some things differently next time, including setting up an on-scene command post within an hour or two of launching the effort. But the sheriff defended the quality of this week's response.
"On every level, every single level, from time it started to time it concluded on Tuesday, it was a professional, well-organized search," Machado said. "Were there things that got done? Absolutely. Were there things that didn't get done? Yes. But at every level this was professional."