- Associated Press - Sunday, February 5, 2012

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Three mushroom pickers took refuge in a hollowed out tree after getting lost in an Oregon forest, fighting wintry chills for six days and drinking water from streams until a helicopter pilot spotted them.

Belinda and Daniel Conne, along with their 25-year-old son, Michael, managed to reach a clearing Saturday, where the searchers saw them several miles outside the community of Gold Beach, roughly 330 miles south-southwest of Portland.

“It’s a miracle, really,” Curry County Sheriff John Bishop said.

Until their rescue, the cold and hungry family had been unable to signal search helicopters flying low and slow overhead.

The three were airlifted to a Gold Beach hospital, where Sheriff Bishop spoke with them in the emergency room. He said the Connes told him they could see search helicopters just a few hundred feet above them while they were lost but had nothing to signal them with through the thick, coastal forest vegetation.

Sheriff Bishop said Daniel Conne suffered a back injury, Mrs. Conne had hypothermia, and their son had a sprained foot and minor frostbite. All three also were dehydrated and hungry.

“They just got turned around,” Sheriff Bishop said. “They sought some shelter in a hollowed-out tree and basically they stayed in the same place, but it was heavy vegetation where they were.”

Sheriff Bishop said the three were “remarkably in pretty good shape,” given the amount of time they spent outside. He said they likely could have survived for two or three more days in the area, where fresh water is plentiful but food is scarce. The weather was mostly clear, with temperatures in the 40s and 50s.

Sheriff Bishop said the family was spotted by Jackson County Commissioner John Rachor, who was searching for them in his own helicopter with Curry County Sheriff’s Lt. John Ward.

Mr. Rachor told the Mail Tribune newsapaper he had a hunch to go outside the box to find them. He knew from experience the lost people often get disoriented and go where they are not expected.

Mr. Rachor is the same pilot who found a San Francisco family lost in a snowstorm in 2006 just 35 miles from where he found the Connes. In 2006, Mr. Raschor flew Kati Kim and her two young daughters to safety after spotting them near their car. James Kim died of hypothermia trying to hike out for help.

Mr. Rachor said they had been searching for two hours when he decided to go outside the search area. They saw a flash of movement in a 210-foot ravine and found the Connes.

“I don’t want to take credit for it because there were so many people involved,” Mr. Rachor said. “It’s all been a joint operation. I wasn’t out there alone.”

When dawn broke Saturday, Sheriff Bishop said searchers entered the woods without much hope.

“We were sort of getting ready to go into body-recovery mode,” he said.

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