INVERNESS (CBS SF) — The Palo Alto couple found Saturday in a densely-wooded area in Marin County about a half-mile from their Inverness rental cabin, was in such good spirits about being rescued, Ian Irwin was singing as rescue helicopters arrived, according to authorities.
Irwin, 72, and his wife Carol Kiparsky, 77, were yelling for help when they were found in thick underbrush at 10:10 a.m. Saturday, in a drainage area near Tomales Bay.
“This is the best possible ending,” said Jonas Irwin, a son of the rescued couple.
“They went out Valentine’s Day to look at the sunset, it got dark, they took a wrong turn,’ said John Kiparsky, another son of the rescued couple. “They found themselves in trouble and they kept going.They were moving, trying to get to a road, trying to get to water, thinking water leads you to civilization. And, as it happens, when they were found they were very close to a road but on the other side of a thicket.”
The couple was found in vegetation so thick that rescuers had to crawl to get to them, said Marin County sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Brenton Schneider. They were talking when rescuers found them and they were airlifted to a hospital, he said.
“They are doing OK,” Schneider said, adding that they were both suffering from slight hypothermia, since temperatures had recently dipped into the 30s at night in the area.
“My dad is very scratched up,” said Jonas Irwin. “Because the brush was so intense in this area, he was laying his body flat into that awful thorny crap – with poison oak, you name it – so that Carol could go over him. That’s chivalry, right? I hope that’s still alive in the next generation,” he said.
“They thought this was the end for them,” Schneider said at a Saturday-afternoon press conference. “Carol and Ian’s survival is a miracle. Their family members are ecstatic, to say the least.”
The couple was last seen at their rental on Via De La Vista in Inverness/Sea Haven. They had been missing eight days without even a jacket. At night, the temperature plunged below freezing. They survived by drinking water from a pond and eating sparse vegetation.
A volunteer searcher, 18-year old Quincy Webster, and a golden retriever named Groot found them.
“We heard voices,” said Webster. “First we thought it was another team. But then they started yelling, ‘help.’ We looked at each other and we were like, ‘that’s them.’ They were like, ‘thank God you found us. We’re so happy.’”
The couple was very cold and Webster took all of the gear from his pack to help warm them.
When the helicopters arrived to lift them out, they were in such good spirits, Ian Irwin began singing.
“It was an old Blues song called, ’I’d rather drink muddy water, sleep in a hollow log’, which is kind of what they did,” said John Kiparsky.
His mother had no shoes on when she was found and authorities believe the couple may have fallen at some point.
At one point Kiparsky told rescuers that she had gone for help and used her scarf to tie on a branch to find her way back, Schneider said.
Their disappearance sparked a large search-and-rescue effort involving hundreds. On Friday, the search was described as a “recovery effort,” as hopes for their survival had waned.
That explains the delayed reaction when Jonas Irwin was informed his parents were alive.
“Brendan texted me and it said, ‘We found them!’ Three words. So I’m thinking initially, ‘all right, we’ve got bodies and this is better than nothing.’ But then I read it again and it said, ‘we’ve found them and they’re alive!’ And I’m like … I screamed! And my wife came running in and she’s like, ‘what, what, what? And I’m like, ‘they found them and they’re alive!'”
“Thank you, thank you to everyone,” John Kiparsky said. “Everyone who was thinking about them. Who was searching for them. There are going to be parties in Palo Alto, I can tell you that. The town is going to light up the day they roll in.”