INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An Indiana couple that had been missing for more than a week were at peace with the world as the husband died a day before rescuers reached the wife, their nephew said Thursday.
Beverly Barker, 69, was released from a Reno, Nevada, hospital Wednesday, a day after rescuers found her and the body of her husband, Ronnie, 72.
“She was at peace with what was happening. Ronnie was at peace. They were lying together in the back seat of the Kia Soul,” Travis Peters of Indianapolis said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
The couple was found Tuesday in the mountainous, forested high-desert in the remote Silver Peak area of Esmeralda County about 177 miles (284 kilometers) northwest of Las Vegas, west of Goldfield and east of the California line.
Both were with the Kia passenger car they had been towing behind a 32-foot (9.8-meter) motor home before the RV got stuck in mud. They apparently decided to try to continue on in the car before it too got stuck.
Peter said he spoke for more than an hour Thursday morning with his aunt. The “hurt and sorrow” that she’s feeling were conveyed through her words, he said.
“She’s doing well. … You can tell she’s still weak. … But she is strong and so strong-willed that it’s very therapeutic for me to talk to her,” he said.
Beverly Barker was released from the hospital Wednesday, he said.
“You wouldn’t think that someone would be released that soon. She was in the hospital for less than 24 hours,” Peters said.
His uncle had had part of his lung removed and could not get enough oxygen to survive in the high altitude where they were stranded, he said.
“My uncle Ronnie was a cancer survivor from exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam, ” Peters said. “It seems apparent to me that Ronnie was struggling even that first day getting air to his lungs.”
The couple passed the time together staring at the sky, watching passing aircraft and the stars, he said.
Peters criticized Nevada authorities for not doing more to find the couple. They relied on the family to do most of the work looking for the two and did not post a silver alert for eight days, he said.
“My uncle Ronnie died 26 hours before rescuers found my aunt. Maybe he’d still be alive” with a more timely silver alert, Peters said of Nevada officials. “They drug their feet until Monday night.”
Peters has directed most of his criticism about the handling of the search at Esmeralda County Sheriff Kenneth Elgan, who didn’t immediately respond to new requests for comment on Thursday.
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