Friday, December 7, 2012
The woman who was stranded in the Sierra Nevada mountains survived for six days by eating tomatoes and snow until she was found by her brother, who was part of a team searching for her and her boyfriend.
Paula Lane, 46, was rescued Wednesday. Her boyfriend, Roderick Clifton, died.
He had left her to find help after their Jeep got stuck in the snow as they drove from Clifton's mother's home in Citrus Heights, Calif., to their own home in Gardnerville, Nev., Nov. 29.
They were reported missing the following day after Lane failed to meet her mother for a planned dinner and wasn't reachable by cellphone, according to KXTV, an ABC TV affiliate in Sacramento.
The couple are believed to have taken their Jeep Cherokee off-roading when they became stuck off Highways 88-89 in Alpine County.
The area where they got stuck was so remote that cellphone service was limited. The couple were unable to call for help, and police couldn't locate them using their cellphones.
Clifton, 44, never returned to Lane. His body was found Wednesday, several miles from the highway. Police have not yet confirmed how he died, but they don't believe foul play was involved.
Lane had set out to find help after her boyfriend failed to return.
Lane's family is happy she is alive.
"It's been a rough haul, waiting all those days, trying to know if she'd made it or not," Lane's older sister, Linda Hathaway, said at a news conference Thursday at Carson Tahoe Regional Hospital, the Carson City, Nev., facility to which Lane was taken and treated for first-degree frostbite and malnourishment.
Police had launched a manhunt for the missing couple, but bad weather at times prevented authorities from sending up planes or helicopters.
Hathaway had given up hope, and said she had prepared her sister's 11-year-old twin sons for the worst. "We sat them down to tell them that their mother may not come back," she said.
But the women's brother kept searching along the route that Lane would have taken home. Lane and Clifton routinely made the drive from Citrus Heights to Gardnerville.
Hathaway said her brother eventually found Lane crawling along Highway 88.
"I took the call and to hear him say, 'I found her, I found her,'" Hathaway said.
When she was reunited with her sister, Hathaway recalled: "I gave her the biggest kiss that I could without hurting her."
Hathaway described her sister as tenacious.
"I tell you, my sister may be little, but she is mighty and she's a survivor and loves life," she added.
Dr. Vijay Maiya, Lane's physician, said his patient had apparently found shelter by "hiding out in a hollow tree," in addition to eating the tomatoes they had with them.
"She is medically stable. She's recovering nicely," Maiya said at the news conference, adding that 25 percent of Lane's recovery would be physical and 75 percent would be "emotional."
Maiya expects to keep Lane in the hospital through the weekend to monitor her recovery.
ABC News' Russell Goldman contributed to this report.