Message in bottle saves family stranded on waterfall

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Krystal Ramirez (L), Hunter Whitson (C) and Curtis Whitson (R), pictured with rescue crew after their ordealImage source, CBS - Newspath video
Image caption,
Krystal Ramirez (L), Hunter Whitson (C) and Curtis Whitson (R), pictured with rescue crew after their ordeal

A family of three who got stuck on a raging waterfall were rescued after floating an SOS message in a bottle down a river.

Curtis Whitson, his girlfriend, and his 13-year-old son were on a backpacking trip in central California in June.

Their plan was to follow the Arroyo Seco river through a canyon until they reached the waterfall.

At the waterfall, they would shimmy down a rope and carry on their journey to a campsite.

But on day three of the hike the family found themselves stranded in a narrow part of canyon where the walls were 40ft (15m) high on either side.

The rope Mr Whitson expected to be there wasn't, meaning they couldn't climb down or out. To make matters worse, the waterfall was flowing too fast for them to enter.

"My heart sank when I realised the volume of water was just too dangerous to make rappelling down possible," Mr Whitson told CNN.

With no phone signal or "a single soul" in sight, Mr Whitson concocted a plan. He wrote a note on a bar order slip that his girlfriend, Krystal Ramirez, 34, had brought to keep game scores: "We are stuck here at the waterfall. Get help please," the note read.

Mr Whitson put the note in a green water bottle and carved "help" into the side. Then he threw the bottle into the water. "With one lucky toss, it went right over the waterfall," he told CNN.

Image source, Curtis Whitson

The note was found around a quarter-mile (0.4km) down-river by two hikers, who raised the alarm, Mr Whitson said.

Rescue crew found Mr Whitson, his son Curtis and Ms Ramirez at around midnight on 15 June, just hours after hikers found the floating message.

"They were really out of options if they hadn't gotten the message out that way, it might've been a while," Todd Brethour, of the California Highway Patrol, said.

Mr Whitson, a glass and door repairman from Morro Bay, California, said he wants to find the hikers who found his message.

"It blows me away how it all came perfectly together," he told the Washington Post. "What are the odds?"

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