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Dublin: 3 °C Saturday 29 February, 2020
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Mushroom pickers rescued after six days in Oregon forest

The three family members later said they could see search helicopters overhead, but were unable to signal to them.

An undated photo of Belinda and Daniel Conne.
An undated photo of Belinda and Daniel Conne.
Image: AP Photo/Karanda Williams

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 yesterday where the searchers saw them near the community of Gold Beach (about 530km 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. Bishop 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.

Bishop said Daniel Conne suffered a back injury, Belinda 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,” 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.”

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.

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. Rachor told the Mail Tribune 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.

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

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