A 46-year-old woman, Paula Lane of Gardnerville, Nevada, is recovering now from a terrifying week spent stranded in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Tragically, her boyfriend, Roderick Clifton, 44, did not survive their traumatic circumstances.

The couple was reported missing on November 29, after they left Citrus Heights, California, but never made it home to Nevada. The situation is still under investigation, but it seems that the couple decided to travel a back road through the mountains. This remote area has little to no cell phone coverage, and when their Jeep became stuck in a sudden snowstorm, Lane and Clifton became stranded.

“They spent that first day, and slept, in the vehicle before Roderick left to go find help, but he never came back,” said Bryan Fritsch of the Citrus Heights police department.

Lane survived as best she could, eating only some tomatoes that they were bringing home from their trip, and eating snow to stay hydrated.
After waiting several days, Paula Lane set out on her own for help since her companion had not returned. Lane was found frostbitten but alive on Wednesday December 5, along the highway in Alpine County, California. She was discovered by a relative who knew the remote road that the couple used as a shortcut.

The couple did the right thing at first, by staying with the vehicle. The statistics don’t lie. The vast majority of people who stay with the vehicle in stranded situations will survive their ordeal. The vehicle is a shelter, packed with materials that can be used by the resourceful. But the situation deteriorated quickly when first Clifton left the vehicle, and then Lane abandoned it as well. There was a blanket in the vehicle, which Lane used to keep warm both in the Jeep, and after she had left it. But the type of vehicle survival gear that the couple should have had for winter travel in remote areas seems to have been absent.

We hope this will serve as a cautionary tale for all drivers this winter, and hope that you’ll look at our blog post from last December to see what lifesaving gear you should be carrying in your car for winter emergencies.