N.M. man talks of ordeal in Arizona mountains

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Dana Davis By Jennifer Thomas Dana Davis By Jennifer Thomas
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

GLOBE, Ariz. (AP) — An 86-year-old man described Friday how he and his wife spent five grueling days stranded in their car in the rugged Arizona mountains during a snow storm, watching his spouse collapse to her death in the freezing cold as they tried to walk for help.

Dana Davis of Albuquerque, N.M., spoke at a news conference Friday at the hospital where is recovering and is in good condition, despite walking eight miles and spending a night under a tree after losing his wife.

He said he and his 82-year-old wife Elizabeth rationed sandwiches, cookies, chocolate bars and juice. Elizabeth wrote letters to her children and grandchildren. They ran the engine on their Buick at night to stay warm, but finally ran out of gas on Tuesday and decided to venture out for help.

They bundled up in multiple layers and put socks on their hands for warmth. But it was too much for Elizabeth, known as Betty. Dana Davis said she only made it about 15 to 20 feet.

"She was pretty convinced she was not going to get out of there," he said. "Me, I'm pretty stubborn. I was going to walk until I found someone."

He knew he would have to forge ahead to survive, so he moved her body off the road and kept walking. He strung pieces of yarn along his route — his wife was an avid knitter — to guide rescuers to the body, and authorities returned the fabric on Friday at the news conference.

He walked from 10 a.m. until sunset and found a spot under a tree to spend the night. The next day, he resumed his walk in attempt to find any sense of civilization as he encountered snow that was piled several feet high along the road.

Finally, an officer with the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation appeared in an SUV and he was saved. His yarn and other markers led them back to his wife of more than 60 years.

The couple had been visiting a nephew in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler. They set out along U.S. 60 rather than the interstate on Dec. 1 because they wanted to visit a wildlife refuge near Socorro, N.M. The Davises were passionate travelers, including trips to Asia, South America and the jungles of Borneo to watch orangutans.

They accidentally ended up on a different highway. Realizing their mistake, the couple consulted a map and decided to take a forest road that connects back to the main road.

"I should have turned around right then and gone about 5 miles back to where I had turned in," Davis said. "So, I goofed right there."

The couple drove their Buick for miles up the forest road, but eventually the transmission went out. The couple did not have a cell phone, but there is no service in that area.

When asked at the news conference how he is coping, Davis said: "It really hasn't hit me that hard yet ... I don't feel as though I really realize she's gone."

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Associated Press writer Jeri Clausing in Albuquerque contributed to this story.