How couple in 70s survived 8 days in Northern California wilderness

Carol Kiparsky, 77, and Ian Irwin, 72, were found alive on Saturday.

February 24, 2020, 10:44 AM

The children of a couple in their 70s are opening up about how the duo survived the Northern California wilderness for eight days.

Married couple Carol Kiparsky, 77, and Ian Irwin, 72, had been staying at a vacation cottage in Inverness/Seahaven when they disappeared on Feb. 14. They were supposed to check out on Feb. 15, but all of their belongings, including their wallets, phones and car, were left at at the cottage, Marin County Sheriff's officials said.

PHOTO: In these undated photos released by the Marin County Sheriff's Office are Carol Kiparsky and Ian Irwin.
In these undated photos released by the Marin County Sheriff's Office are Carol Kiparsky and Ian Irwin.
Marin County Sheriff's Office via AP

Ian Irwin's son, Jonas Irwin, said the couple had the skills to help survive those kinds of conditions.

Carol Kiparsky "is like an herbalist, mushroom hunter," while Ian Irwin has a background in mountaineering, Jonas Irwin told ABC San Francisco station KGO-TV.

They were able to stay alive by drinking from a puddle, authorities said.

Jonas Irwin said during the ordeal his father was lying in thorns and poison oak "so that Carol could go over him."

"That's chivalry," he told KGO-TV.

When the couple was reported missing, searchers scoured the area by land, boat and air for days. On Feb. 20, officials said their search efforts were transitioning to a "recovery mission."

Then on Saturday, Carol Kiparsky and Ian Irwin were found alive in dense terrain. They were only suffering from light hypothermia, officials said.

When Carol Kiparsky's son, Jon Kiparsky, got the news they were found alive, he "suddenly switched from thinking about how I was going to wrap up an estate to thinking about how I was going to get to Inverness-- and how fast I could get there," he told KGO-TV.

Carol Kiparsky and Ian Irwin told authorities they had left for a Valentine's Day hike but got lost in the dark, officials said.

"Carol and Ian are in amazing spirits," the family said Sunday in a statement released by the sheriff's office. "They are still hospitalized and being monitored due to the extensive abrasions from the dense brush."

"They will be forever grateful for the hard work and dedication put forth by all of the Search and Rescue volunteers and first responders from all over the Bay Area who searched every day for them," the family said in the statement. "They look forward to telling their story in time, but are asking for privacy until they are ready to tell the story of how they survived the unimaginable seven nights in the Inverness wilderness."

ABC News' Matthew Fuhrman contributed to this report.