CONGAREE NATIONAL PARK, S.C. (AP) — Search crews have found a father and his two children who had been missing for more than two days in the vast woods and swamps of the Congaree National Park in South Carolina, officials said Tuesday.
Dana Soehn of the National Park Service said rangers had located J.R. Kimbler, his 10-year-old son, Dakota, and 6-year-old daughter, Jade. The three — who carried no food, water or camping equipment — got lost after taking to the trails on Saturday afternoon for what was apparently intended to be a short hike.
"They were all OK," Soehn said at a news conference. "They looked remarkably well."
The three were taken to a local hospital for observation, officials said.
Eighty searchers from nearly a dozen agencies searched for the family in the 27,000-acre site since the father sent a text message late Saturday saying they were lost. Crews flew over the entire park, but Soehn said ground searchers combed 9,000 acres on foot and by vehicle before finding the family.
Officials closed the park Monday afternoon during the search. An investigative team from the National Park Service checked on possible leads outside the park.
Park Ranger Jared Gurtler said he was elated to hear Kimbler respond when he called out his name at around 4:30 a.m. Tuesday during his morning rounds of the park's trails. Gurtler was about two miles from the visitors' center where the family entered the park.
"I was just hollering names," said Gurtler. "They all hollered back."
When they spotted each other on opposite sides of a stream, Gurtler tossed over three bottles of water. After meeting up, Kimbler told the officer he had been on the boardwalk that winds through the park but left it to follow another trail when he got lost.