BIG SUR, Monterey County (CBS SF) – Details have emerged about an incredible rescue at Big Sur over the summer which involved a stranded family who was saved thanks to a message in a water bottle.

Curtis Whitson and his family were in the midst of a Father’s Day weekend trip at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park when they became trapped on the top of a waterfall. The family was miles from the nearest campground and without cellphone service.

Whitson wrote a note and put it in his water bottle, which he carved the word “help” on its side. He then tossed the bottle downstream. The bottle was found by two hikers, who then alerted rescuers.

Curtis Whitson scrawled the word "help" on this water bottle to send a message seeking help after he and his family became stranded at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park on June 15, 2019. (CBS)

Curtis Whitson scrawled the word “help” on this water bottle to send a message seeking help after he and his family became stranded at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park on June 15, 2019. (CBS)

A California Highway Patrol Air Operations unit found the family, next to a “SOS” sign they made out of rocks, and airlifted the hikers to safety the next morning.

“It would’ve been pretty…almost impossible in some areas to actually get out of there, you know?” said CHP Flight Officer Paramedic Tony Ramage.

Curtis Whitson and his family after being rescued at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park over Father's Day weekend. (CBS)

Curtis Whitson and his family after being rescued at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park over Father’s Day weekend. (CBS)

“They were really out of options,” said Officer Todd Belthour, a CHP helicopter pilot. “If they hadn’t gotten the message out that way, it might’ve been a while.”

Whitson told The Washington Post he hiked the same route seven years ago and descended the very same waterfall by rappelling down a rope attached to its side. But this time, there was no rope to be found.

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