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RUCH, Ore. — After many long, tense hours of searching, waiting and praying, family and friends of missing Medford woman Cameron Cutler and her children were reunited in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
35-year-old Cutler and her children — a pair of five-year-old twins and a three-year-old — set out for a hike in the Tunnel Ridge Trail area on Tuesday morning, according to Jackson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO) Sergeant Shawn Richards. Cutler was using Apple Maps to reach the area from Talent.
"The suggested route included unpaved and unmaintained forest roads in the Anderson Creek area," Sgt. Richards said.
After driving for several miles up the remote forest roads, Cutler decided to turn back. However, her Honda Odyssey minivan became wedged between a tree and a ditch when she tried to turn around.
Without cell phone coverage, Cutler was unable to call for help. Instead, she reportedly spent the rest of the day keeping her kids entertained with short walks around the area — never ranging far from the van in hopes that rescuers would come.
Quinn Cutler, Cameron's husband, called authorities for help soon after 6 p.m. when his wife and kids did not return home. Soon JCSO deputies, Search & Rescue personnel, and about 150 volunteers converged on the Applegate Valley to help in the search for Cutler.
Members of Cutler's church formed an enthusiastic part of the search efforts and said that they were prepared to stay through the night to continue looking for Cutler and her children.
A search team found Cutler and her children just before 1 a.m. in the early hours of Wednesday morning, spiriting them back to the command post in Ruch where Cameron and the children were reunited with Quinn and dozens of friends and family members.
"Thank you to everyone who helped with the search and shared information," JCSO later said in a statement.
The agency said that Cutler and were children were unharmed.
According to Sgt. Richards, there were many things that Cutler did right during the ordeal: She was prepared with clothing, food, and water, she kept everyone in one location, and she worked to keep her children in good spirits.
"But, he says there are lessons to be learned from this incident," JCSO added.
Sgt. Richards issued the following safety tips for travelers:
- Stick to familiar routes
- Let someone know where you're going and the route you will take
- Don't rely on electronic navigation devices or apps; carry paper maps
- Ensure you carry enough food and water for 48 hours
- Carry warm clothing and blankets in your vehicle