CEDAR CITY, Utah – A couple and their dog stranded for 12 days when their truck got stuck in the snow survived by rationing what little food they had, starting the truck periodically for heat and then hiking through waist-deep snow for three days.
Thomas and Tamitha Garner were found by a snow plow driver Wednesday afternoon, after a search over thousands of miles of snow-blanketed mountains and desert.
"We just kind of had our heads together," said Tamitha Garner during a news conference with her husband at the hospital where they were treated for dehydration and frostbite.
Thomas Garner, an Eagle Scout, said he used the seat cushions from his pickup as snowshoes and his wife followed behind in tennis shoes, sometimes up to her waist in the snow.
"My family is what kept me going," said Tamitha, 38. "'Hold on one more day. ... One more day and I'll be home."
The couple and their dog, Medusa, were on a trip to photograph wild horses. They were last seen Jan. 26 at a gas station in the eastern Nevada town of Panaca. They had left their home in the Salt Lake City suburb of Kearns two days before and relatives called when they hadn't heard from them.
"We were out looking for the horses and the snow just got too deep and we couldn't get the truck turned around and so we decided to hold up," said Thomas Garner, 40.
When the Garners ran low on food, they started walking out of Modena Canyon, about 60 miles west of Cedar City. Three days later, they came across a snow plow driver near the Iron and Beaver County line.
Iron County Sheriff Mark Gower said the couple were dressed in jeans and light coats.
There had been an intensive air and ground search by Nevada and Utah authorities that failed to spot the couple or their truck. The area was blanketed with snow and some parts were accessible only by snowmobile.
Family members were ecstatic.
"We're gonna kiss them and caress them and then give them a piece of our mind," said Gerald Garner, Thomas' father, on his way out the door to Cedar City, about 250 miles south of Salt Lake City.
Leroy Davenport, a rescuer involved in the search, died Sunday. Authorities believed he may have been exhausted after having to dig his snowmobile out of deep mountain snow on Saturday.
Ange Garner, Thomas' sister-in-law, said the couple had learned of Davenport's death and planned to attend his funeral Thursday.