WARNER SPRINGS, Calif. (AP) – A husband and wife stranded for two weeks in Southern California’s high desert ate oranges and a pie and drank rain water that they collected in cups, but the 79-year-old husband died at some point before the couple’s rescue, authorities said.
Off-roaders found Cecil Knutson and his wife, Dianna Bedwell, 68, Sunday afternoon near a Boy Scouts camp on the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation about 65 miles northeast of San Diego, sheriff’s Lt. Ken Nelson said. Bedwell wasn’t able to tell authorities when her husband had died, but an autopsy to be conducted by Tuesday could help answer that question, he said.
Bedwell told authorities the couple was trying to take a shortcut and got lost in the rugged area, where their 2014 white Hyundai Sonata was obscured by trees and surrounded by brush, making it invisible to helicopters that were conducting aerial searches, Nelson said.
Knutson’s body was near the car and Bedwell was inside the vehicle, he said.
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“They were really off the beaten path. We were really surprised that the vehicle they were driving, a sedan, was even able to get out there,” he said Monday. “It was so rural that it took two weeks for even off-roaders to find them.”
The family asked for privacy in a statement posted on a Facebook page established to help with the search.
“Please continue to keep the family in your prayers,” it read.
But Bedwell’s son spoke briefly to the Orange County Register.
“I’m just so concerned with my mom right now,” Robert Acosta told the newspaper. “To be in the middle of nowhere for two weeks is a lot given her age.”
Bedwell remained hospitalized and hadn’t spoken with authorities beyond an initial 10-minute interview.
The husband and wife, who were diabetic, were last seen on surveillance footage leaving the Valley View Casino in Valley Center, about 25 miles west of the wilderness camp, on May 10. Authorities said the two were planning on going to their son’s home in the Palm Springs area for a Mother’s Day dinner but they didn’t show up there or return to their Orange County home in Fullerton.
Knutson and Bedwell were both retired school bus drivers and were married for more than 25 years, the Register reported.