Family Credits Faith, Experience And Staying Put For Survival
The three Andrews-Sharer sisters observed the cardinal rule of wilderness survival when they got lost last week in the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
"The most important thing that they did to help themselves was to stay put," their father Eric said at a news conference recorded at Teton County offices in Jackson on Friday.
He and his wife Shirley and the three daughters -- Megan Megan Margaret, 25, of Milwaukee, and Erin, 22, and Kelsi, 16, both of Columbus, Ohio -- thanked the multi-agency task force that began its search in earnest on Tuesday and brought it to its successful conclusion Thursday morning.
Searchers acted on a tip from a guide who was clearing a trail in the Gros Ventre Wilderness on Wednesday and saw Kelsi in a white raincoat. By 10 a.m. Thursday, a helicopter located the sisters and airlifted them to the trail head seven miles away where their SUV had been found on Wednesday.
"They did all the things that you'd want your kids to do from a standpoint of what to do in a back country situation that might be escalated; just to stay put and wait for help to come, and that's exactly what they did," Eric said.
The sisters went backpacking July 1 and were supposed to hike out July Fourth. But they got lost and knew what to do.
"They went into the back country very well prepared," said Lori Iverson, spokeswoman for the search task force. "They had all the right equipment, they had all the right clothing, they had everything that they needed."
Eric added they drew on their family's extensive outdoor experience by using a water purifier, got proper rest, stayed in the right presence of mind by singing -- such as the national anthem on the Fourth of July -- and stayed in one place.
Besides the scores of searchers on foot and horseback, the dog teams, and a helicopter, locating the sisters relied on technology and shoe leather investigating.
Eric said the Teton County Sheriff's Office was able to locate the sisters' SUV through a GPS ping with a cell phone.
And Iverson said the sisters had purchased a map of the Gros Ventres Wilderness for $18.95 at the Jackson Hole Greater Yellowstone Visitors Center. "There were so many small clues."
The family also credited their faith in God -- through prayer and looking for signs such as rainbows -- for helping them endure.
"We're thankful for all the folks here in the Jackson area, and thankful for all the folks that have been praying for us in our communities in Columbus, Ohio, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in Phoenix, Arizona, places we've all lived," Eric said.
In hindsight, Eric said his daughters should have followed the procedures that happen when they've gone hiking in nationals parks. Those who want to hike the back country will make a plan and present it to someone at a park office, buy a permit, and hike the plan.
The national forests have no such formal process, he said.
His daughters wanted to do something more remote, so they went to the Bridger-Teton National Forest, Eric said. "As you think about any trip any of you have ever been on, there's a couple things you wish you would have done better and different, and one of those things might be, 'hey, what trail head are you going in on?'"