SAN JOSE, Calif. — After mysteriously vanishing on Valentine’s Day from their rental cottage in the Inverness forest, a Palo Alto couple was miraculously found alive Saturday, rescued from a ravine deep in the woods near Shell Beach, where they had been lost for nine days, surviving only on a puddle of water.

The disappearance of Carol Kiparsky, 77, and Ian Irwin, 72, from their cottage up the mountain from Chicken Ranch Beach, near Point Reyes Station, had baffled the hundreds of searchers who had scoured the area for days. Their family had given up hope.

Then on Saturday morning, two searchers spotted them about a half-mile from Pierce Point Road, deep into the vegetation farther than family and rescue crews thought was possible. The couple heard them and began screaming for help, said Brenton Schneider, a spokesman for the Marin County Sheriff’s Office at a news conference describing the details of the couple’s harrowing ordeal.

Groot, a three-year-old rescue dog, got to them first, said Quincy Webster, among the first who arrived to the rescue.

“Thank God you found us, we’re so happy,” the couple blurted, according to Webster, who gave Kiparsky all the warm clothes and gear he was carrying — and the pair water while they waited for the rescue helicopter to take them to Marin General Hospital. Then came the song.

“(Irwin) started singing a song when the helicopter came, and he still had a little sarcasm behind his voice, even then,” Schneider said, adding that they were suffering from slight hypothermia.


They were discovered about a half-mile from a road, he said, but walking out would’ve likely taken three our four hours.

It’s still unclear why the couple ended up lost in the forest, but Schneider said they had just gone out for a hike on Valentine’s Day unprepared for a long trek or the cold weather.

“Their clothing was something that you go out on a light evening, there were no jackets,” he said. “I know that Carol was found without shoes so it sounds like they may have fallen.”

They were trapped in a dense drainage ditch overgrown with foliage, where they were eventually spotted, according to Schneider. At some point, Kiparsky attempted to go out for help, tying pieces of a scarf to vegetation as she went so she could find her way back to Irwin, but was unable to make progress.

The couple survived off of a puddle of water they found nearby and was helped by relatively mild weather for most of the week. Even they, it seemed, feared the worst was coming. The last few nights, temperatures dropped into the 30s, dimming officials’ hopes that they would be found alive.

“They thought this was the end for them,” Schneider said.

Even their son, Jonas Irwin, was without much hope as the search dragged on.


“There’s no way they’re going to reappear at this point,” Irwin told this news organization earlier this week. “I mean, you don’t know until you have them physically. But the prospect of us never getting that closure is really going to be bad.”

But the couple hung on.

The vegetation was so dense, one team spent nearly two hours crawling through it at one point during the search. When they were finally found, the helicopter became the only way to get the couple out. He credited the staff and volunteers for the unlikely happy ending — there were 70 searchers on the ground Saturday and hundreds since Kiparsky and Irwin first went missing.

They were spotted at 10:10 a.m. Within a couple of hours, they were rescued using the Marin County Search and Rescue, as well as Henry-1, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office’s helicopter unit, the sheriff’s office said. Later, the office tweeted a photo of the couple in the hospital, saying they are in “great spirits” and thankful for the outpouring of community support.

Irwin is a Parkinson’s researcher with 25 years of experience, including work identifying a toxin in heroin that re-created the signs and symptoms of the disease. Kiparsky is a prominent linguist who has published several books, including “Fact” in 1968 and “The Gooficon: A Repair Manual for English” in 1975.

Before the rescue, the couple was last seen on a Valentine’s Day trip around Point Reyes Station. They never checked out of their cottage on Saturday, leaving behind their wallets, phones, vehicle and other personal belongings.

Disappearances are rare in Inverness, a spokesman for the Marin County Sheriff’s Office told this news organization earlier this week, adding that the last time there was a similar search — for two children missing in the woods — was in 1979.


On Thursday, the sheriff’s office had announced that the search was now a “recovery mission,” saying that with the resources deployed in finding Kiparsky and Irwin, they “would have located Carol and Ian if they were responsive or in an area accessible by foot on land.”

The search plan for Saturday included ground searchers, K-9 teams, boats, an airplane and drones.

Speaking to reporters in front of dozens of volunteers and official searchers — and Groot — who had put in 10 to 12 hour days in the effort to find the missing couple, Schneider described “organized chaos” when they were finally found, with everyone scrambling to help. Even after Irwin and Kiparsky were located, people were still coming up to him, asking how they could help, Schneider said.

Superlatives like “ecstatic” and “implausible” seemed to barely capture a moment few, including experts and family members, thought would come.

“This is a miracle,” Schneider said.


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