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Missing family rescued on Christmas Eve after getting lost in Colorado's snowy mountains

Posted at 11:14 AM, Dec 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-25 13:14:53-05

A family was rescued on Christmas Eve after getting lost in the snowy Rocky Mountains in Colorado for 24 hours. Officials found the family safe as they were searching for help.

According to the San Miguel County Sheriff's Office, a couple in their 30s from El Paso, Texas, was driving a rented truck with their 12-year-old daughter when they got lost in San Juan National Forest. A multi-agency search led to the rescue of the family.

A concerned family member first contacted dispatchers on Monday, but a preliminary search that night was unsuccessful. The next morning, Undersheriff Eric Berg located the truck while operating his personal aircraft, police said.

Just after the truck was located, the family was spotted a few miles away on a forest service road, about 35 miles south of their destination of Norwood, where they were delivering furniture. They said they had relied on a GPS to find the fastest route from Durango, but got stuck in the snow the previous morning.

The man told police the family tried to dig the truck out of the snow but were unable to. They ran the engine and bundled themselves up in furniture blankets to stay warm overnight.

After sleeping in the truck, the family wrapped shipping plastic around their sneakers and started to walk through the snow, searching for help. They were found alive with no serious injuries after being missing for 24 hours.

San Miguel County Deputies, Search and Rescue, Dolores County Sheriffs and Search and Rescue, Montezuma County Sheriffs, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Colorado State Patrol all participated in the search effort.

"The family is lucky to have had moderate temperatures and our ability to use aircraft to locate them," Sheriff Bill Masters said in a statement. "But people need to remember that electronic GPS systems are not always the best guide. At this time of year especially, roads like these are not always passable."

Sheriff Masters said the family's story highlights how important it is for people to keep warm clothing and extra food and water in their vehicles for emergency situations.