Tourists found a bottle asking for help – and saved a family of 3

Two strangers saved the life of Curtis Whitson, and he wants to thank that his family is alive today, writes KTVZ. Two brave (and caring) travelers saw a green bottle in a California river and alerted authorities to the SOS message they found inside.

Whitson, his 13-year-old son, and girlfriend Cristal Ramirez decided to spend Father’s Day cruising along the banks of the Arroyo Seco River.

They had a great time jumping over boulders and swimming across calm areas, and at night they slept under the stars in light sleeping bags. Whitson knew the area well: every summer he makes 20 hiking trips to the coastal forests of central California.

On the way to the waterfall, the family had to pass through the canyon. They planned to get to the waterfall and then rappel down the cliff and return to the camp. On the third day of the hike, the travelers found themselves in a narrow part of the canyon between 15-meter rocks. Water was churning nearby.

“My heart sank when I realized that the volume of water was too big for us to go down,” Whitson said.  Imprisoned in a trap, the travelers were at first confused. There was no mobile signal here.

Lucky throw.

Numerous attempts to climb failed. There seemed to be no way out. They couldn’t see beyond the curve of the canyon walls, but they heard voices from the other side. They tried to scream. They tried to carve a message on a stick and throw it away. But they soon realized that a stick wouldn’t be enough, so they came up with a new way to get someone’s attention.

Whitson spotted a lemon green Nalgene bottle and carved “HELP” into its sturdy plastic body.

On the order form Crystal found in her pocket, Curtis wrote, “We’re stuck at a waterfall. Please, help”. He put the note in a plastic bottle and threw it into the waterfall.

In addition, the family spread a blue tarpaulin in the clearing and wrote “SOS” on it with white stones. As the sunset, they used a flashlight to keep the message illuminated.

Rescuers did not keep themselves waiting long.

Two tourists caught a bottle 400 meters downstream and raised the alarm. The rescue team found Mr. Whitson with his girlfriend and his son Hunter just hours after the hikers found the message in the bottle.

According to Whitson, he was told that two men found a bottle with a family note, went down to the trail, then walked a couple of kilometers, and reached the Arroyo Seco camp, where they reported their find. The hostess of the camp told Whitson about the travelers but added that the two never said their names.

A helicopter took off in search of the family. During the rescue, the crew used night-vision goggles and FLIR (infra-red instrument) to locate the fire. “We all fell asleep when we suddenly heard a helicopter right above us. We hugged and cried with happiness,” Ramirez said. The family was told to stay where they were, and the next morning a rescue team arrived for them.

Now Curtis Whitson wants more than anything to find the tourists who found his message and saved the life of him and his loved ones.

“They didn’t leave their names or phone numbers. They just took it seriously and did what their hearts told them to. They responded quickly and selflessly. I can’t express how grateful I am to them,  ” Watson said of the tourists who saved his family.

This is how the ancient way of sending a request for help helped people in our digital time!

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