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.
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