Man stranded with kids used fire, blankets to alert rescuers

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CAMPTONVILLE, Calif. (AP) — A man who got stranded with his young children in a rugged area of Northern California said he spent more than two days trying to get rescuers' attention by putting pink blankets in trees and leaving bottles by a river.

Nicholas Vlahos, 41, said he and his 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter also tried to attract notice by lighting fires and putting out lots of yellow straps, San Francisco news station KGO-TV reported ( ).

The family got stranded Tuesday in Tahoe National Forest after they went off-roading and their truck became stuck.

Nearly 60 people had scoured a remote wilderness area for Vlahos and the children after they failed to return home from their weekend camping trip. National Guard Black Hawk helicopters equipped with a device that can detect heat also helped law enforcement and volunteers search for Vlahos and his kids, according to the station.

"We could hear them and we could see them, but they couldn't hear us. We were just too tiny," said Vlahos.

Vlahos, who lives in Oakland's Millsmont neighborhood, co-owns two 1920s-style barber shops in Alameda County that provide old-style haircuts and straight-razor shaves. His business partner, Bradley Roberts, described him to the San Francisco Chronicle as an experienced outdoorsman who frequently goes off-roading.

Vlahos had last been heard from on Sunday, posting pictures on Instagram of his family along the Yuba River. He and the two children had last been seen in western Sierra County driving from their campsite in their 2015 black Toyota Tundra pickup truck.

Rescue crews finally found the trio Thursday night and airlifted them to a staging area near Camptonville, about 100 miles northeast of Sacramento. They were not injured and in good spirits.

A KGO-TV news crew captured the kids smiling as they were reunited with their grandparents.

"We're just real excited that they're here," said Bob Wehmeyer, the children's grandfather. "Oh, what a relief. What a relief."

Vlahos said he was sorry for making people worry.

"We are so grateful to everyone who looked for us," he said.


Information from: KGO-TV.

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