SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A snowmobiler who spent four nights alone in freezing temperatures in the Utah wilderness without food or water said he didn’t think he would survive.
David Hales said Wednesday from a hospital in Heber City that he trekked about 7 miles on his hands and knees before he was rescued Tuesday, the Deseret News reports .
The 60-year-old said he had a hole in one of his boots because a fire he started on the first night set his pants and boot ablaze. With his legs constantly cramping up, he took a break every 10 steps and meditated.
His low point came when he saw a rescue helicopter fly overhead one night.
“That was my chance. I missed it,” David Hales remembers thinking.
He said the ordeal began when he left his cabin east of Heber City at dusk Friday to take a short ride to test a snowmobile he had fixed for a neighbor.
He didn’t take food or water since he planned to be back soon and left his cell phone since there’s no cell coverage in the area. He got in trouble when he took a wrong turn and ran out of gas.
On the first night, he used the vehicle’s starter fluid to start a fire but he woke up to his boots and pants being on fire. He rolled in the snow to stop the fire, but was left with the hole in the boot.
After two days, he began walking through waist-high snow to find help. He said he ate so much snow his mouth became numb.
When Wasatch County Search and Rescue crews found him Tuesday morning, he couldn’t believe it.
“I put my hands up and just thought, ‘I’m going to live, thanks to them,’” he said.
He was treated for hypothermia and minor injuries but is expected to be fine.
David Hales is the son of the late Robert D. Hales, who was a member of The Church of Jesus of Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He died in October.
He said he cares for his mother, who he called as soon as he was rescued.
“She’ll want me to promise never to do that again,” he said.