‘It’s Truly a Miracle’: Iowa Native Found Alive After Five Days Lost on California Mountain

Eric Desplinter and Gabrielle Wallace (WHO-HD)

SAN BERNADINO COUNTY, California –It was the ordeal of a lifetime for Iowa native Eric Desplinter and his co-worker Gabrielle Wallace.  The two had being trapped on Baldy Mountain just northeast of LA since Saturday. The pair of hikers were rescued Wednesday night after crews found footprints and called in a helicopter. The chopper was able to spot the pair’s campfire.

“Thank you to all the volunteers that were helping look for us, we are very grateful to have been found tonight.  I’m ready to get to bed and get some rest” said Desplinter.

The two chose to summit Mt. Baldy after another pair of hikers they were with turned back to camp. According to his mother, the two experienced hikers tried to find a less challenging path down and ended up losing the trail.

“[We] rationed our food, drank water through a LifeStraw, kept as warm as possible” said Desplinter.

The LifeStraw was critical to survival. A $20 piece of equipment, it allowed them to drink fresh water when they ran out of their own supply.

“So, the life straw filters out bacteria and protozoa. It’s good for 1000 liters of clean, flowing water so great to have for anyone to have in their pack” said Taggart Lewsander, manager of the REI in West Des Moines.

Lewsander says you should also carry a map and compass in case cell service is poor, more food than you think you need, and a way to start a fire.

“Tried and true, just a waterproof pack of storm proof matches and a little bit of tinder in there” he said.

As for Desplinter’s mother Karen Ziebarth, all she can say is ‘thanks’.

“You can’t put words into what I feel. I keep looking at these workers and I keep saying ‘thank you’. You say thank you because it’s just words that come out of your mouth, because it’s not enough. I can’t say anything for the amount of work that they put in daily, and a lot of these people, most of these people are volunteers and they work out here and they came out all day to save Gabby and Eric. It’s a miracle, it’s truly a miracle” said Ziebarth.

She says her son is thinner than when he went up the mountain, but otherwise the two are in good health.

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