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NorCal teen survives freezing night in woods

January 4, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
A 13-year-old Bakersfield boy was happy to be home one week after he got lost while on a sledding trip with his family in the mountains outside Bakersfield.Matthew Ybarra recounted how it all went wrong while in the wilderness of Chimney Peak, about 85 miles northeast of Bakersfield, when he went searching for a bigger slope to take his sled for a faster ride.

Ybarra got lost without any survival gear or training. He endured below freezing temperatures of around 15 degrees Fahrenheit in the dark. During the ordeal, Ybarra lost a glove, his shoes, and a sock while trying to find his way back. The boy said he thought he was going to die, but his survival instincts kicked in.

"Most of the time, I was just keeping my mind off of dying," said Ybarra.

His mother, meanwhile, feared the worst.

"He's only 13 years old, and it's below 15 out there, and as cold as I was in the truck, I just didn't think they would find him alive in the morning or whenever they were going to find him," said Crystal Arroyo.

"I was praying to my brother and my mom to keep him safe. Just to watch over him and make sure he's safe and warm and that they find him," said Ruben Arroyo, Ybarra's father.

It wasn't until Monday morning that rescue crews got a break. They found a glove that ultimately led them to Ybarra. After 16 excruciating hours, the young teen was discovered in a state of hypothermic shock and suffering from frostbite on his toes.

"I thought I was just being real quiet just staring at everyone but what they told me was that I was screaming, 'I'm over here!'", said Ybarra.

The mountain may still claim two of the boy's toes, which remained in bad condition Monday from the frostbite, but he says he knows it could have been worse.