Friday 10 March 2023

81-year-old Air Force veteran survives 7 days stuck in snow: 'Don't give up hope'

 One elderly Nevada man is home, safe and sound, after he used his wits and resources to survive a week trapped alone in his car while a winter storm raged outside.

On Friday, February 24, Jerry Jouret, an 81-year-old Air Force veteran and former NASA employee, was in Big Pine, California, but wanted to return to his hometown of Gardnerville, Nevada. Winter weather had already caused his usual route, Highway 395, to be closed, so if he wanted to get home that day, Jouret and his Ford Escape would have to take Highway 168 instead.

Just a half-hour into what normally would have been a three-hour journey, Jouret made a wrong turn down a remote road off the highway and got stuck in snow. Unable to move his vehicle, Jouret decided to camp out in his car until either the weather relented or someone came to rescue him.

A wise man with a lot of practical experience, Jouret had some water and food as well as warm clothes with him. He also knew to conserve gas and battery power in the vehicle as long as he could, turning the car on for heat for just short bursts of time.

Three days later, the battery in the SUV finally gave out while Jouret was closing a window. At that point, the window remained ajar as snow continued to swirl outside and temperatures fluctuated between the mid-30s and the teens.

By Tuesday, four days after they had last heard from him, Jouret's family had become very worried and filed a missing persons report with the Inyo County Sheriff's Office. Search and rescue teams then intended to begin looking for Jouret the next day but were thwarted by snow.

On Thursday, helicopters from the California Highway Patrol Inland Division Air Operations finally went out in search of Jouret. At noon that day, CHP had tracked a cellular ping from the previous Friday and connected it to Jouret. Using that ping as a general point of reference, aerial teams began to search the area.

The way the helicopter pilots ultimately spotted Jouret's SUV sounds straight out of a movie script. They had been searching for six hours and had just refueled at Bishop Airport when they returned to the general area and noticed something that looked like a rock. Suddenly, a window in the "rock" lowered and a human hand began to wave at them. Jouret had finally been found, seven days after he first got stuck and after three feet of snow had fallen on his vehicle.

Within a short time, Jouret was in the helicopter, where he reportedly beamed from ear to ear because finally, after 81 years, he got to take a ride in a helicopter. That thrill ride was short-lived, though, as Jouret had to be transported to a nearby hospital for medical treatment.

Despite the harrowing ordeal, Jouret was discharged from the hospital later that same day.

"The nurses were in awe at how well his vitals were," Jouret's grandson, Christian Jouret, reported. He was "better than anyone could have expected."

Jerry Jouret later told his brother, Joe Jouret, that he survived by eating the candy and croissants he had in his car and by drinking the water he kept on hand, just in case. He also ate snow when necessary.

"I just really believe it was a miracle," Joe said.

Grandson Christian issued a message of hope to everyone who hears about his grandfather's story: "If someone gets trapped, don't give up hope. Some of us thought he was a goner. Never give up hoping. The human body is amazing for what it can endure."

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