“If you were ever looking for a Christmas Day miracle, this was it,” said Crest Forest Fire Division Chief Jerry Ringhofer about a nearly frozen Twin Peaks woman who was found around 10 a.m. on Dec. 25 by sheriff's Search and Rescue volunteers.
“It was lucky someone found her, because she could have died out there,” Ringhofer told this newspaper.
The unidentified woman, described as someone in her 30s, reportedly wandered away from a residence near Highway 189 and Strawberry Lodge Road and Pine Ridge Camp some time around 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
On Christmas morning, sheriff's Search and Rescue team members found her alive, but unresponsive. “She was suffering from severe hypothermia,” Ringhofer said.
Paramedics from both Crest Forest Fire and County Fire treated the woman, and when her condition was found to be critical, she was evacuated by helicopter for treatment.
“Mercy Air 22 was called, and the helicopter landed at the Twin Peaks ball field,” Ringhofer said. As of Wednesday, the woman's condition was unknown.
The search for the woman began just before midnight.
“The woman reportedly went out around 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve, but we didn't become aware of it until around 11:20 p.m.,” said Sheriff's Twin Peaks Station Captain Rick Ells.
He said friends showed up at the woman's house looking for her, and when they couldn't find her called for help.
“Three of our deputies and a sergeant immediately went looking for her,” Ells said.
Deputies used a hand-held thermal imaging device borrowed from County Fire to try and find her, but without success.
“Frankly, I was not at all optimistic that we would find her,” Ells told this newspaper.
The search got underway again Christmas morning.
“We put out a call, and we got 10 volunteer members of the sheriff's Search and Rescue Team to help us,” Ells said. “We also called out the sheriff's helicopter to help in the search.”
Around 10 a.m. the woman was found breathing, but unresponsive. A friend or neighbor discovered her at about the same time the helicopter spotted her, Ells said. The woman was cold to the touch, he said.
Ringhofer said weather conditions worked in the woman's favor.
“It was a cold night, but with no moisture,” Ringhofer said. “And it was a near-perfect day, with a high cloud level, and no wind.”
If it had been snowing, as it was on the day after Christmas, the outcome might have been different, he added.
“If things were going to go right for her, Christmas Day was the day,” Ringhofer said.