1 of 2
Mike Anderson, Deseret News
Michelle Richan talks about getting stuck in mud and snow in Box Elder County and camping out in her SUV for a week before she was rescued on Tuesday, March 26, 2019.

PARK VALLEY, Box Elder County — Michelle Richan believes in being prepared.

When asked why she carries an abundance of survival gear with her whenever she travels, she explained, "I like going out in the middle of nowhere like that. It's just, you know, if you're going to be out there, you need to be able to survive out there. You need to have it."

That preparedness may have saved her life when her SUV got stuck March 19 in mud and snow en route from Eureka, Nevada, to Heber City. She was stuck for a week before a snow plow driver found her Tuesday off Emigrant Trail Road, which runs near Park Valley in Box Elder County, said Brigham City Police Lt. Tony Ferderber.

She even had enough food and water with her to last another week.

"I've always thought something like this (could happen). 'Cause I like going out in the middle of nowhere."

While she was stuck, Richan spent her time "collecting firewood, burning fires," she said. "That's about it, actually."

The fact that it took so long for her to be found in spite of the fire "is kind of surprising," she said. Air Force pilots doing maneuvers overhead and people driving in the valley didn't see her.

She also tried shooting her a gun a few times to catch someone's attention, but search and rescue crews later told her that the sound of gunshots is common in that area.

Before getting stuck, Richan had passed a Division of Natural Resources officer on the road. She said she was disappointed that the officer didn't report to anyone that he saw someone on the road.

But on Tuesday, the snow plow driver came across Richan after a pilot of a small plane spotted her from above. That pilot had been searching for Richan.

The area is "almost as dangerous in the summer as in winter when the temperatures go over 100 degrees and you run out of water," said pilot Ivo Zdarsky.

When he learned Richan was missing, he took to the sky to help search for her.

"I spotted something orange, so I just went really low to look at it and saw her actually running out of the car," Zdarsky recalled. He radioed what he'd seen to searchers on the ground.

The snow plow driver freed Richan from the snow.

"He goes, 'I have to pull you out. You're in my way,'" Richan recalled. "You have to thank the plow guy. He's the one that found me finally."

If she hadn't been rescued, Richan said she would've burned a spare tire before deciding to try to abandon her vehicle and walk to shelter. "I figured I had enough food left to at least last a week, so I figured I probably had enough to at least walk out if I had to," she recalled.

Search and rescue crews helped get her out of the area Tuesday and she was reunited with her loved ones in Park Valley.

"It's nice to see family again," Richan said.

For her daughters, the ordeal was "insane."

"It's been terrifying and exciting and just completely, just no words. Like, you can't explain it," Kaylee Vaughan said.

When she received the call that her mother was OK, she said, "I almost was in shock and was kind of like, 'I don't believe you. I have to see it for myself because it's been so long and it's been such a crazy roller coaster of emotions and just thoughts.' And so it's been hard, but it was really great news," Vaughan recalled.

Leslie Richan called finding out their mother was safe "the best news ever. I was so emotionally overwhelmed."

According to Vaughan, Richan was "really happy" that she had a knife and an electrical blanket to plug into the car outlet.

7 comments on this story

"It was weird, because it's a place that we visit kind of often. Tons of people drove right past the road. She saw cars driving past, and there was planes flying overhead and stuff like that. People, they just missed her. It was kind of shocking how close everybody got but just weren't reaching her," Vaughan said.

"I think we took for granted a lot of things between us as a family, and just the security of cellphones and all that stuff. We took that all for granted, for real, because you think, 'Oh, I have a cellphone. If I get in any trouble, I can just call 911."

But when her mother had tried calling 911, she wasn't able to get through to dispatchers.

With the ordeal behind them, Vaughan said the family is "so excited, so happy" to have Richan back.

Contributing: Andrew Adams