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EXCLUSIVE: Stranded snowboarders rescued

December 22, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Five snowboarders were rescued after a wrong turn on a mountain road left them stranded overnight in the snow and cold.Five very lucky teenagers were rescued Monday. Authorities say they did nothing wrong, and they were just happy to get the teens out safely.

The teenagers were headed back from Big Bear down Highway 18 when they apparently took a wrong turn onto a road that hadn't been plowed. It was very dangerous, they got stuck, and they had to spend the night in their car freezing. There was no cell phone service so they couldn't get through to their parents. The teens' parents were worried sick.

But finally, late Monday afternoon, ABC7 was there when they were brought home safe and sound. It was a very happy reunion.

For the families of five Whittier teenagers lost overnight, they really wanted to see a reunion as soon as possible, a conclusion to a night and day filled with worry and heartache.

The five guys were on their way back from a day of snowboarding in Big Bear, but when they never arrived Sunday night, parents feared the worst.

"I mean, terrible things, that our boys are lost and we may never get them back," said parent Cindi Escamilla. "It's the best Christmas present ever to get them back. I'm just so thankful."

Turns out they got stuck not far from home. Apparently they took a wrong turn onto Highway 173 onto a stretch of unplowed, unsafe road north of Lake Arrowhead.

One of the teens, Erik Escamilla, was asked if the group had seen a warning sign on the road.

"That is was unplowed? Yeah, it looked good until we hit the unplowed part and we got stuck," said Erik.

And Monday, even a Sheriff's deputy even got stuck trying to help get them out. The fire department had to bring in a snow loader to do the trick. All in all, though, they say the boys did exactly all the right things.

"They did an outstanding job," said San Bernardino Fire Dept. Battalion Chief Mark Pebbles. "As you know, they were there overnight. They had food, they had water, they had warm clothing. When they became stuck last night they made the very smart decision to stay with the vehicle. They had enough fuel, they were able to run their heater and stay warm and they were very smart. They were thinking."

And because they were thinking, their parents didn't have to think bad thoughts anymore. This was a happy ending to a story that might have been much worse.

"We are just so blessed, so blessed," said Cindi Escamilla. "I mean, the things that went through our head, I don't want to think about anymore because they're home safe."

And with very foggy conditions Monday evening, the real hazard for drivers is visibility, because although the roads are pretty clear, it's hard to see through the fog.

Not a lot of snow on the roads since they've been plowed. Temperatures were right around freezing Monday evening, but not a lot of ice on the roads.

As of Monday afternoon, it was a no-chain condition in the mountains, but the CHP says all drivers should have chains with them, since conditions can change very quickly.


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