Search Pilot Thought He Saw a Rock. Then an Arm Waved

Jerry Jouret, 81, survived being stuck 6 days in a California snowbank, eating biscotti and candy
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 10, 2023 10:24 AM CST
Man Stuck in Snowbank Lived on Biscotti, Candy for 6 Days
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/VladK213)

Don't ever think you can outdrive an imminent snowstorm. That's the lesson learned by one elderly man whose car ride—meant to last just a few hours—ended up stranding him in a snowbank for almost a week. CNN reports that 81-year-old Jerry Jouret left his mountain getaway in Big Pine, California, on Feb. 24 to make the trek back to his home to Gardnerville, Nevada, even though he knew a storm was on its way, according to grandson Christian Jouret. He says that 45 minutes or so into the drive, however, his grandfather turned down the wrong road, and his SUV ended up stuck in the snow, in weather that ended up dropping into the teens.

The ex-NASA worker and mathematician was only wearing a light jacket, his grandson says, with only a thin quilt and hotel bath towel in the vehicle for warmth. Jerry Jouret tried not to use too much gas or battery power, turning on the vehicle just once in a while to generate some heat, says his grandson. He ate the few food items he had on him—candy, croissants, and biscotti—as well as snow he gathered by occasionally rolling down his window. On Feb. 27, Jouret's third day stranded, that electric window-rolling proved unfortunate: The car's battery died while the window was still open a few inches.

By Feb. 28, the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office had received a missing-persons report, but a search for Jouret was initially delayed by the weather. Finally, on March 2, the California Highway Patrol finally picked up a ping from Jouret's cellphone, and the pilot of a search helicopter spotted Jouret's car, though he initially thought it was a large rock. The pilot realized it was not actually a rock once he saw an arm poking out, waving. "The CHP crew loaded the person on board and transported him directly to Bishop Airport for transport to medical care," per the sheriff's office.

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"The nurses were in shock at how well his vitals were," says Jouret's grandson, noting his grandfather wasn't even suffering from hypothermia. "The whole thing was just a miracle," he adds to the BBC. The broadcaster notes that more than a dozen deaths have taken place during the area's latest storms, though officials are still trying to determine which ones can be definitively tied to the weather. The sheriff's office says that Jouret was treated and released from the hospital the same day he was rescued, but CNN notes he had to take a bus back home to California—his vehicle remains trapped in the snow. (More survivor stories.)

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