Police shocked woman survived night in the cold - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Police shocked woman survived night in the cold

 SPOKANE, Wash. - Toni Sneva is alive and well today due to the coordinated efforts of several agencies and the volunteers of Spokane’s search and rescue team.  Toni was walking alone in the Riverside State Park area early in the afternoon on Saturday.  She was wearing light clothing but was familiar with the area.  Everything was going as planned until she injured her ankle and was unable to get herself back to her vehicle at least 2 miles away.  2 miles on rough, icy terrain of switchback trails.  Temperatures dipped into the low 20’s when the sun went down and she became unable to walk.

 Family members notified the Spokane Police Department after she failed to show up to meet friends at a hockey game at 7.  Toni is a very active person and Officers checked several different areas that she would normally take her walks.  One of her friends found her vehicle near 9-mile dam.  Spokane County Sheriff’s Office was also called in and their Helicopter was utilized.  There were no signs of foul play so the Search and Rescue group took over command duties.  The unit of volunteers is lead by Spokane Deputy Pat Bloomer.  30 volunteers showed up to help with 2 dogs, and 5 ATV teams. 

 The search area covered over 10 miles of rugged trails in a 3 square mile area.  The temperatures were so low that the likelihood of finding her alive was unbelievable.  The massive search effort grew to include Liberty Lake Police Officers, city and county K-9 units, night vision equipment, and FLIR (forward looking infrared).  Those recourses were assisted by the Red Cross and medical units from fire station 9 and AMR were standing by for medical assistance.  Maps were studied and search teams were coordinated from the command post that was opened by the Principal at 9-Mile Falls.

 If you are wondering if all this effort was necessary for one person, ask Toni Sneva.  She was lying by a tree over 2 miles away from her vehicle and her cell phone would not work.  She was literally freezing to death and physically unable to get out by herself.  Toni could hear the Helicopter and tried to waive a bag and her open cell phone in hopes that they could see the light from her screen.  Hours passed by and she sat next to a tree to protect herself from the wind.  Toni made a decision that saved her life.  She tossed the bag she was waiving and empty juice container on the trail nearby.  Toni was in the critical stages of hypothermia.  She began to feel warm and extremely tired.  The only life she could see was a few deer and some coyotes.  She was alone and knew that she would not make it to daylight.  Many of us hoped for the best but believed that surviving in those conditions was nearly impossible.  There is no doubt that she was running out of time.

 Search and Rescue workers on ATV’s drove up the trail near her but she was unable to do or say anything.  The lead vehicle stopped when he saw the bag in the trail.  They checked the area and found Toni leaning against the tree about 50 feet away from the trail.   One of them put his coat on her and they headed down the trail to the ambulance. The next day she was able to talk about her ordeal.  Toni said she will be forever grateful for those who found her.  She could not say enough about how skilled and compassionate they were.  This incident would have ended completely different if not for Toni’s desire to survive and the efforts of friends, family, emergency crews, and volunteers who put everything into finding her.

 Deputy Pat Bloomer said you should always prepare to survive the night when you go into the woods.  Always bring or wear clothing that could get you through the night or weather changes.  Reflective clothing can help rescuers find you.  A small bag of food and water, flashlight, and means of starting a fire could help you with self rescue.  Most importantly, always tell somebody exactly where you are going and when you should be expected to return.  Toni’s friends knew where she liked to walk and that was one of the factors that saved her life.

 I personally admire Toni Sneva for what she endured and how she was able to survive it for as long as she did.  The Search and Rescue team truly lived up to their name, and for that, we are all grateful. 

 Officer Brian Eckersley

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