Rescued California Sisters, Ages 8 & 5, Survived by Drinking Rainwater From Leaves

Doug Williams
Credit: ABC News
Credit: ABC News

It’s not often that tales of children who have gone missing turn out to be joyful. Even the FBI says that once a child is missing for 24 hours, it becomes increasingly unlikely that they will be found safe. I

f they are found at all, the sad reality is that statistics show that they are found hurt, abused, or dead.

This story, thankfully, is a rare exception to those grim statistics. This is the story of two young sisters on the west coast of America, in California, who went missing for more than 40 hours and yet were found safe – if a little hungry.

It is the story of Leia Carrico, just eight years old, and her younger sister Caroline, just five years old, who got lost in a California forest in early March.

They survived their ordeal by keeping calm, drinking water from large leaves, and having faith that sooner or later their father, Travis Carrico, would find and rescue them.

It all started when the sisters went for a walk together on a deer path that winds its way along the family’s property. There are 80 acres of deeply-forested growth on the land, but the girls were allowed to wander there on one condition: that they do not go past an enormous tree that had fallen fairly close to their home.

Their dad used the tree as a kind of landmark, insisting that the girls did not venture beyond it; and they didn’t, until around March 1st this year.

Caroline told ABC-TV News on March 4th after they had been found that though her sister was content with their usual stroll, she wanted a more grand adventure. “Leia wanted a little tiny… adventure, but I wanted more.”

The old adage says that “curiosity killed the cat,” and sure enough, in this case, curiosity almost got the better of them. They knew they were lost when suddenly they realized they’d been walking around in circles because they came upon large metal poles a second time.

The girls managed to drink rainwater they collected from large leaves
The girls managed to drink rainwater they collected from large leaves

“I wasn’t sure which way home was,” Leia explained to the interviewer, “but it turned out that home was way back south.” Fortunately, they didn’t panic; they used Caroline’s coat to protect themselves from the rain and crouched under a large bush for shelter. During the day it had been warm, but by nightfall the temperature dropped to 38 degrees F.

The girls tried to cheer each other up, and Leia played the perfect role of big sister. “My sister cried the whole night,” she said, “but I kept watch. And I told her to keep happy thoughts of our family.”

Caroline tried, but to no avail. “I thought of going to the park with my mommy and daddy,” she said once the ordeal was behind them. “I thought of the ocean. I thought of everything, but it didn’t work.”

Meanwhile, their mother was the one panicking, thinking that her girls were lost and in trouble. “I felt awful, terrified, guilty,” admitted Misty Carrico after the girls were found by two members of the local fire department.

Ms. Carrico had been preoccupied getting a load of items ready to haul to the dump when she realized her daughters had vanished. It was mid-afternoon that Friday when it dawned on her that the girls were nowhere in sight. She immediately called her husband, who raced home and began to search the large property.

The parents then called the local sheriff, who organized a search party of locals, firemen, and police officers. Personnel were recruited from around the entire state – more than 200 people in total.

Travis Carrico tried to stay rational, but said his wife “went to a really dark place.” Soon, he was also very upset. “I went through every emotion you could think of, from thinking it was a dream to (curling) up and crying.” Misty Carrico admitted that she “wasn’t hopeful” when the first long day stretched into two. “After the first night, I could hear my kids screaming for help in my head.”

Every parent’s worst nightmare – times two.

The girls managed to drink rainwater they collected from large leaves but got steadily more hungry as they hadn’t packed even a protein bar for their ill-fated walk. Still, they tried to keep calm, mostly, though eventually both lost their voices from screaming for help.

Finally, two of the men in the search party, both from the fire department, saw granola bar wrappers on the ground that made them wonder if the girls were close.

They paused, and suddenly heard a small voice say “Dad?” It was the exact outcome everyone prayed for but which parents seldom get when children are lost for almost two full days. Finally, the men spotted the girls huddled under the bush.

Their parents had taught them survival skills, and rule number one was: don’t move if you get lost. Stay put. And that’s exactly what the girls did, to everyone’s relief and amazement.

By the time the sisters were rescued on Sunday at around 10 in the morning, they were ready to go home and into the arms of their anxious parents – who immediately fed them pizza and ordered GPS trackers for both daughters to wear the next time they go hiking. While they were technically in trouble for wandering off, neither parent was in a mood to punish them.

“They saved each other,” said a happy and relieved Misty. “I’m the proud mom. I raised superheroes.” Two young girls getting lost in the forest for two days and surviving with little more than their wits? “Superheroes” doesn’t begin to describe them.


fmssolution is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival