SILVER PEAK, Nev. – An Indiana couple spent more than a week stranded in a desolate part of Nevada, surviving on snow for water as they hoped for a rescue.
On March 27, Ronnie and Beverly Barker set off from a California campground across the Nevada desert. The couple had expected to arrive in Tucson, Arizona, on March 29 to meet with friends. The date came and went with no sign of them.
What happened to them had remained a mystery, but new details provide insight into the ordeal.
The couple’s nephew, Travis Peters, said his aunt shared how the couple became stranded in the first place and relayed the information in a Facebook post.
His aunt told him they’d been following their GPS in the RV. The GPS had not been set to “highway” mode, which would’ve likely provided a safer route to their destination. They had no indication that the route was potentially dangerous—they saw other cars and even another motorhome along the way.
The RV did “just fine,” although they had to slow down because the trailer dolly was bouncing around if they went too fast. The RV then got stuck in some gravel and sand. They slept in the RV and unhooked their Kia Soul the next morning, with the idea that they’d go get help.
They didn’t grab water or blankets, thinking it would be a fairly quick trip to find help. But they took another wrong turn in the Kia and got stuck again roughly two miles away from the RV.
Unsure how far they were away from help—and unaware of how far they’d traveled from the RV—they stayed put. Ronnie honked the horn in an SOS pattern about every 10 minutes or so.
According to Beverly’s account relayed by her nephew, their biggest enemy was thirst. She said dehydration began to pull the life from her husband and left the car to get snow. She balanced herself on her walker and used N95 masks to scoop up the snow to put in bags so they’d have water.
“My uncle Ronnie was dying, and there was nothing they could do but honk that horn and try to melt the snow for drink,” Peters wrote.
They stayed like this for days, with Ronnie reading from his Bible and the couple doing their best to keep their spirits up as they waited for help to arrive.
Ronnie passed away peacefully on Monday afternoon. Less than a day later, rescuers found their RV by following tire tracks. They eventually heard Beverly honking the horn in the distance.
The immediate nine-day ordeal came to an end. While Beverly told her rescuers she “wasn’t really hungry,” she did request water. She was flown to a hospital in Reno for evaluation.
Peters believes the strong faith of his aunt and uncle helped get them through.
“There’s no physical way that Bev would have been able to make it to get snow time after time without the Lord carrying her up to that ridge,” Peters wrote. “The story Bev told, while heartbreaking, was uplifting as well. There was way more talk about how they were at peace with the fate that was closing in on them. There were more words of love and kindness to each other than pain and suffering. It truly was a religious experience.”
Peters wishes local authorities in Nevada had taken the case more seriously and started the search earlier. He hopes no family has to struggle for help as his did.
“Had proper steps been taken from the moment they were reported as missing, my uncle would be alive today,” Peters wrote, taking aim at the local response. “Your inability to deal with this situation cost my uncle his life. I hope that haunts you for the rest of yours.”