Ore. mushroom pickers found alive after 6 days

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- A couple and their adult son were found injured but alive Saturday after they got lost while picking mushrooms and survived six days deep in the Oregon coastal forest, taking shelter part of the time in a hollowed-out tree.

Belinda and Daniel Conne, both 47, and their 25-year-old son, Michael, were spotted by a helicopter pilot and later flown to a hospital.

Curry County Sheriff John Bishop said Daniel Conne suffered a back injury, Belinda Conne had hypothermia, and their son Michael had a sprained foot. All three also were dehydrated and hungry.

"They just got turned around," Bishop said. "They sought some shelter in a hollowed-out tree and basically they stayed in the same place. But it was heavy vegetation where they were."

Bishop said the three were "remarkably in pretty good shape," given the amount of time they spent outside. He said they likely could have survived for two or three more days in the area, where fresh water is plentiful but food is scarce.

Bishop said the Connes tried to get to a clearing so they could be spotted by passing airplanes and search helicopters, but they were slowed by their various injuries.

The three were spotted Saturday by a helicopter piloted by Jackson County Commissioner John Raschor, and his passenger, Curry County Sheriff's Lt. John Ward.

The family was airlifted from the area by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter and taken to Curry General Hospital in Gold Beach, where they will be interviewed by authorities. A nursing supervisor said Saturday afternoon the family members were in a doctor's care and were unavailable for comment.

At the hospital emergency room, Bishop said the Connes were "very thankful for the rescue" and were able to eat solid food.

The search had focused on a 4-square-mile area. Bishop said the family was in the search area but likely kept moving, making the search for them more difficult.

"We were actually right near them all three days" of the search, Bishop said. In the area's canyons, "you think people can hear you, but they can't."

Before their discovery, the family was last seen Sunday at their campsite on the Rogue River. They later failed to return to a camping trailer where they left two dogs. Their Jeep was found on a logging road.

Searchers recovered a can of Pepsi, mushroom-picking buckets and toilet paper on Friday while searching the area of rugged coastal forest. The search involved three Southern Oregon counties and one county in California.

Joe Dykes, who works at the Huntley Park campsite where the family was staying, said Belinda and Daniel Conne arrived at the campsite in July after moving there from Oklahoma. Their son arrived later.

Belinda Conne works at the Jot's Resort as a housekeeper, where motel owner Virginia McKinney said the Connes were preparing to rent a home in Gold Beach before the disappearance.

McKinney said Belinda told her she always wanted to live on the Oregon coast, and finally left Oklahoma last year with the intention of settling down.

The area is in rugged country riddled with a maze of logging roads in the Klamath Mountains where people frequently get lost or stranded. In 2006, a San Francisco family was stranded in a snowstorm on a logging road about 35 miles northeast of the search area for the Connes. James Kim died of hypothermia trying to hike out, but his wife and children were rescued by a helicopter pilot.


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