SALEM, OR (KPTV) - A group from the Salem area are thankful for family and friends who came to their rescue after spending nearly two days stranded in the Oregon Cascades.
The trip into the Cascades for R.J. Hampton, his brother Kheigan Hampton and their girlfriend’s Haley Davis and Kayleigh Ford was to see the snow, but it turned into much more than that. They were left stranded with no cell phone service and a vehicle that was having mechanical problems.
The four say they had planned to go up to the Snow Peak area outside of Salem on Sunday to enjoy the snow. They know the area very well and are very familiar with off-roading in that part of the Cascades. When they got to Snow Peak, there was no snow. So the group headed up Hwy. 22 past Detroit to Straight Creek Road and into the forest.
As they were going along, RJ says they were getting close to a quarter of a tank of fuel left. He says they stopped to put more in from a five-gallon tank he had with them. He shut the engine off to use the key to unlock the fuel door to put gas in the vehicle. He said when they went to start the engine. It would not start.
“I got back in my truck, and it wouldn’t start. It just sat there and turned over and would not start, and that is when we realized we were in a little bit of a situation,” R.J. Hampton said.
They worked to try and figure out what the problem was but were unable. The four were now stranded miles from anywhere and no way of communicating that they were stuck.
“Once we were up there and realized how little that road was actually traveled, there are chances of somebody being out here, let alone having service is slim to none,” Hampton said.
The group had told family they had plans to go to Snow Peak, but not that they had diverted to a different part of Linn County.
When they did not return home, the family became worried.
For nearly two days, the group used a small propane heater to stay warm. They say they had a few snacks but not much. As time wore on, the snow began to fall, and the temperatures were dropping. They say they kept trying to clear snow from the hood and roof of the SUV in hopes that they may be spotted by a passing plane.
They also tried to use spotlights that they had with them as well when aircraft would fly over.
Some in the group would eventually leave the stranded vehicle and walk to try and find cell service to call for help.
“We must have walked three or four miles trying to find, trying to find anyone really, trying to get off the mountain as we were going I kept checking my phone, checking my phone just in case,” Kheigan Hampton said.
Eventually, they were able to get in touch with 911 and get a Facebook post out saying they were stuck up Straight Creek Road and to send help.
While the four were waiting and hoping for rescue, a massive search was underway to find them.
The other two Hampton brothers, Konagher and Levi were searching the backcountry in hopes of locating the group. The pair started on Snow Peak, knowing that it was where the group had intended to go, but then shifted to the Idanha area because of a cell phone ping in the area.
“When we were at Snow Peak, we heard about the ping in Idanha, so we finished checking Snow Peak and went straight to Idanha,” Konagher Hampton said.
Konagher and Levi were not alone in their search. Marion and Linn County Deputies were also out looking as well as a large group of people.
The Hamilton’s mother, Kelly Kapri, had posted to Facebook asking for help finding her sons. The response came from all over, with people ready and wanting to help.
On Tuesday morning, a sight and sound the stranded group thought they might never see or hear. A pair of snowmobiles came racing up the road and found them.
They say the two riders on the snowmobiles were old classmates from Cascade High School.
“We’ve grown up with Lee Bethel, since we were young, and for him to be the one that got to us before anyone else is like, wow! There are obviously that many people out here that we didn’t know who were actually looking for us,” R.J. Hampton said.
They’re still a bit shaken by the ordeal but glad to be out of the Cascades. The four cannot thank those who were out trying to find them enough. They say they know so many people gave up so much to come help. It was an emotional time for all of them when they were met at the end of Straight Creek Road by a big group of people happy to see the four were alive.
“That’s when you start feeling the love and the guilt, like I said, this is our fault, but thank God for each and every one of them, without them we might not have been here,” R.J. Hampton said.
“Thank God for our friends, we have amazing friends we are just so thankful,” Davis said.