One of five people who were stranded in the rugged terrain in the Monte Cristo area for two days said the group survived the brutal weather by building a shelter and a fire and eating hot dogs and chips.
Don Donehoo, 44, and his 43-year-old wife, Kris, along with Ray, 42, and Rebecca McNeely, 37, and their 10-year-old son, Mike, got lost on the snowmobile trail Sunday night and were rescued Tuesday morning after a television news crew spotted the group."I felt real happy when I saw that chopper," said Donehoo. "I got frightened this morning. I didn't know where we were."
The group took off on snowmobiles along the Monte Cristo road about 16 miles east of Huntsville, Weber County, Sunday morning and got lost when a machine broke down, darkness set in and a ground blizzard hit the area.
Another son of the McNeelys called the Weber County Sheriff's Department, and a search began Monday morning.
The group was found about 10:15 a.m. Tuesday when a helicopter leased by KTVX Channel 4 News found them. They were taken by the chopper to the base camp and arrived about 11 a.m.
They were found about three miles from the ranger station at about the 9,000-foot elevation.
Sitting in a warm bus being checked over by paramedics and chomping down a sandwich, Don Donehoo said the party stayed on the trail until darkness fell Sunday and they got disoriented and lost.
He said they survived the ordeal by building a twosided shelter with snow and branches and keeping a fire going. He said they had some snacks to munch on, but the food and water ran out Tuesday morning.
Don Donehoo said he was frightened Tuesday because he felt they should have been rescued sometime Monday. He said he spotted two helicopters Monday afternoon, but the pilots apparently failed to see them.
Snow fell on the mountains both nights, but Donehoo said he and the others kept warm with a fire and they had plenty of firewood. "We had a big fire the whole time so we stayed warm," he said.
Weber County Sheriff Craig Dearden said about 50 people from his department and a group from the Golden Spike Snowmobile Club went out Tuesday morning. He said search and rescue groups from Cache and Rich counties also helped.
Dearden said he was getting concerned about the group's safety because a major winter storm was moving in. The sheriff said temperatures dropped below freezing Sunday and Monday nights, but he said he expected to find the group alive because Ray McNeely was an "avid and experienced" snowmobiler.
Snow began to fall about 9 a.m. Tuesday, and the sheriff said he expected the weather to worsen and temperatures to drop as the front came in.
After the group was found, Dearden said all five people were in good spirits and in good condition. The sheriff said the Donehoos, of Washington Terrace, and McNeelys, of Roy, could drive themselves to an Ogden hospital for quick physical examinations.
"They had a pretty rough night last night. They're lucky," said Dearden. "They're in really good shape. I feel great. With a storm moving in, I was starting to worry."
Kris Donehoo told a Channel 4 reporter this was the first - and the last - time she would ever go snowmobiling.
Winter survival tips
-Dress warmly and take proper supplies, including matches and small food items.
-If stranded, find proper shelter under trees and stay in one place.