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Missing Family Found After Two-Week Ordeal

March 22, 2006

GLENDALE, Ore. (AP) _ Six family members who disappeared more than two weeks ago after leaving for a trip to the coast in a recreational vehicle were found alive Tuesday in a remote area of southwestern Oregon, surviving in their snowbound vehicle on dehydrated food and other provisions.

Two parents were found first after they had left the recreational vehicle _ which had become stranded by snow _ on Monday to seek help, and hours later rescuers located the RV and the four others, who include two children.

All six were reunited Tuesday afternoon in this southern Oregon community.

Peter Stivers and Marlo Hill-Stivers and his wife ran up to a van as it pulled into town with the two children and with Stivers’ mother and stepfather.

The reunion was carried live on KGW-TV.

``I love you baby,″ Marlo Hill Stivers told her daughter, Gabrayell, 8.

``I love you too, mommy,″ she replied.

Peter Stivers rested his hands on the shoulders of his 9-year-old son, Sabastyan.

``He had fun. They enjoyed it,″ Peter Stivers said. ``They didn’t know we was in trouble.″

Still, for the adults it clearly had been ordeal.

The six left Ashland on March 4 for a trip across the mountains to the coast that normally takes a couple of hours.

Officials had earlier said the six had apparently taken a shortcut, instead of taking the well-traveled Route 199 to the coast, and then gotten stranded in up to 4 feet of snow.

And that was the way it was described by Elbert Higginbotham, Stivers’ stepfather.

``We thought we’d take the scenic route,″ he said on KGW-TV.

``Every time we took a corner, it seemed like we took a wrong corner.″

At one point, the RV slid off the road and eventually got stuck in the snow. The family tried to hand-dig the RV out but could not, he said.

He said family sustained itself on snow and dehydrated food they had loaded up for the trip. They had enough propane to keep the RV heated.

``I’m so proud of my family ``They stuck together, they didn’t lose it,″ said the bearded Higginbotham.

Stiver and his wife decided Monday morning to go seek help _ leaving with a tent, wool blankets, tuna fish and honey, Higginbotham said.

On Tuesday morning, workers from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management found Stivers and Hill-Stivers.

Later, rescue workers in a helicopter made contact with the other four, said Sgt. David Marshall, spokesman for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department. A snow machine was sent to pick them up.

They were found about 14 miles west of Glendale, a town of fewer than 900 people along Interstate 5, about 80 miles north of the California border

After the family was reported missing, rescue teams from Oregon and California scoured the two closest routes from Ashland to the coast. But police didn’t know exactly where they had been heading, and they eventually called off the search when there were no leads.

At the time, police said family members did not answer calls to their cell phones, and the bank accounts of all four adults had not been touched since March 4.

During the initial search, authorities had focused on the U.S. 199 corridor leading south from Grants Pass, a well-traveled route across the Coast Range, rather than narrow and windy back roads that are more direct routes.

Sgt. Jim Alderman, spokesman for the police department in the city of Ashland, said as much as four feet of snow had been reported in the mountains recently, and it was a puzzle why the family had chose the road.

``We don’t know why they went the way they did,″ he said. ``We don’t know why they were up there where they were.″

The family lived in Ashland for several years but rarely traveled, said Andi Black, general manager at DJ’s Video in Ashland where Hill-Stivers worked.

``She’s just super-responsible,″ Black said. ``So we knew something was wrong ... this is totally unlike her (Marlo).″

``I knew we were going to hear something eventually,″ said Char Seward, a close friend and co-worker of Marlo Hill-Stivers. ``But after two weeks and two days of not hearing something, it was exhausting.″

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