The father of three sisters missing in Teton County, Wyoming, expressed his relief soon after their rescue Thursday.
“I started to cry as you would as a parent,” said their father, Eric. “Losing all your kids at once is not an easy thing.”
Search and Rescue spokesperson Lori Iverson said a helicopter spotted Megan Margaret, 25, Erin Elizabeth, 22, and Kelsie Moriah Andrews-Sharer, 16, near the top of the divide between Horse Creek and Little Horse Creek in the Gros Ventre Wilderness.
“They’re tired, cold, hungry, but otherwise healthy and happy to be on their way out,” said Iverson.
The sisters had last been heard from June 29 when they made a phone call to their mother. They had set out with supplies for a five-day trip in the backcountry.
Their car, a black 2008 Saturn Vue with Wisconsin license plates, was found at the Swift Creek trailhead near Granite Creek Hot Springs in the Bridger-Teton National Forest on Wednesday afternoon. They were found seven miles from their car.
That the searchers in the helicopter found them was not simply by chance — they were scouting the area after backcountry outfitters Kolton Cook and Nate Souter tipped authorities after they spotted what they at first thought was an animal, but was a person wearing a white rain jacket.
They only saw her for 20 seconds — and then came the rain.
“As soon as we got into camp about 2 o’clock, the clouds came in,” said Souter. “They were black. They were nasty. It starting to sleet, rain, hail – it was coming down sideways. It was coming down so fast.”
Sheriff Jim Whalen said searchers changed their plans as soon as they got the tip.
“We plotted that area specifically,” he said. “We got a latitude and longitude and gave it to the helicopter crew. They immediately responded, and I bet within 15 minutes they had told us over the radio that they had three people waving at them on the ground.”
Whalen said searchers had to put themselves in the shoes of the family.
“And so I think that’s where the emotion comes in for the rescuers. — for those of us working on this, you humanize this thing,” he said. “You put yourself in that place. It’s profoundly moving. It’s a whole lot of emotions going on at once, but you never lose sight of what our role is and out role is to find those people.”
The sisters’ father expressed his gratitude to the more than 100 people from local and federal agencies who helped with the search.
“As you can imagine, my wife and I are very relived and thankful that they’re safe,” Eric said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the local sheriff’s department here and Search and Rescue people here that were just overwhelming us with help and support to find our family, so I just can’t thank you enough.”