UPDATE — Palo Alto couple found alive in Marin County, “This is a miracle”

Ian Irwin and his wife Carol Kiparsky rest in hospital beds after they were rescued from the wilderness in western Marin County yesterday. Photo courtesy of the Marin County Sheriff's Office.
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office tweeted out this photo of the extraction operation today.

A Palo Alto couple who got lost during a Valentine’s Day hike in the woods of western Marin County was found today (Feb. 22) by rescuers who spent almost a week looking for them and had given up hopes of finding them alive.

Carol Kiparsky, 77, and her husband Ian Irwin, 72, were found in a densely forested area near Tomales Bay, and were airlifted to a hospital for treatment of mild hypothermia, Marin County Sheriff’s Sgt. Brenton Schneider said at a news conference.

“This is a miracle,” he said.

They were unprepared for a long hike or the cold weather, when night temperatures dipped into the 30s, and survived by drinking from a puddle, he said.

At some point, they may have fallen and Kiparsky attempted to find help alone. She tied parts of her scarf to branches in order to get back to her partner, Schneider said.

“They thought this was the end for them.”

“They heard us searching, they heard us talking, and they yelled out for help,” said Quincy Webster, a volunteer with Marin Search and Rescue, at that news conference. He said that, when he reached the couple, they said, “Thank God you found us, we’re so happy.”

Schneider said that after law enforcement officials were told Kiparsky and Irwin were alive, it was “controlled chaos.”

“We wanted to get as many people to them as we could,” Schneider said.

Schneider said the couple had brought no food or water, or cell phones, with them on their Feb. 14 hike near their rental cabin.

They were found in vegetation so thick that rescuers had to crawl to get to them, said Schneider. The couple were in an “implausible” place, he said, and that it was difficult for rescuers to get through that undergrowth.

That dense undergrowth made it extremely difficult to carry the couple out any way other than by helicopter. A Sonoma County Sheriff’s helicopter crew pulled the two seniors from the brush and got them to a nearby hospital.

“(Ian) started singing a song when the helicopter came,” Schneider said.

Kiparsky and Irwin both suffered mild hypothermia because they had been dressed in relatively light clothing and had to endure overnight temperatures that dipped into the 30s, Schneider said.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office helicopter used in the rescue mission today.

Kiparsky and Irwin were last seen Feb. 14 at a vacation cottage near Inverness, a town at the foot of the bay. The couple from Palo Alto never checked out the next day as planned and failed to show up for an appointment on Feb. 16, which sheriff’s officials said was highly out of character for them.

When housekeepers went to the cottage to clean up, they found the couple’s phones and wallets. Their vehicle was parked outside.

Sheriff’s officials and a volunteer team combed the woods and waters around Inverness for several days with the help of drones, dive teams and boats equipped with radar and sonar. On Thursday (Feb. 20), they shifted the operation to a “recovery mission” when they received four independent alerts from cadaver dogs around Shell Beach, about 2 miles from the cottage, and felt they had exhausted all possible leads.

“We believe that our extensive search efforts with every resource that has been available to us would have located Carol and Ian if they were responsive or in an area accessible by foot on land,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

The Sheriff Office released photos of Kiparsky and Irwin in their hospital beds. Kiparsky was showing a “thumbs up” sign.

“They are in great spirits and want to thank every single person who has kept them in their thoughts,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a tweet.

Irwin is a leading Parkinson’s disease researcher. He was a chemist on the team that originally identified an agent responsible for the outbreak of Parkinsonism among heroin addicts in 1982.

Kiparsky is a prominent linguist and author of several books on language, including 1975′s “The Gooficon: A Repair Manual for English.”

From staff and wire reports


  1. This is wonderful news. I hope they’ll make a swift recovery. I can imagine that they’re a wreck after spending a week stranded outdoors.

  2. At this point I’m assuming they spent eight days stranded outdoors, and that there was some reason they couldn’t return to the community. I guess there’s more to the story.

  3. So who pays for the rescue? I realize much of the rescue effort was by volunteers, but helicopter time isn’t free nor are the hours sheriff’s deputies spend on this. Should Marin County pay, even though the couple wasn’t from there? How about Palo Alto, which can afford it considering the city’s unusually large surplus?

  4. I am 65 years old, I was diagnosed of Parkinson’s disease at the age of 59. I had severe calf pain, muscle pain, slurred speech, frequent falls, loss of balance, difficulty getting up from sitting position. i was on Carbidopa and Pramipexole for two years, as the disease progressed my symptoms worsened, with my neurologist guidance i started on natural PARKINSON’S DISEASE TREATMENT from Rich Herbal garden w w w. richherbalgardens. c o m The treatment worked very effectively for my Parkinson’s, most of my severe symptoms simply vanished within the first 3 months on the treatment, i feel better now than I have felt in years and i can feel my strength again. My neurologist was very open when looking at alternative medicines and procedures, this alternative Parkinson’s disease treatment is indeed a breakthrough.

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