Missing family with toddler, infant survive 48 hours in wilderness

MATLOCK, Wash. -- The McAlister family spent Tuesday night out in the cold, wind and rain and Wednesday night in their van.

They kept warm using the car’s heater, the only food they had was Halloween candy. Jason McAlister said he knew if they didn’t make it out of the woods on Wednesday, his family could have been in deep trouble.

“Everybody’s good, God’s great, happy to be alive,” he said.

Jason said his family’s minivan got stuck on a logging road while on a scenic drive near Shelton. They were stranded in the woods without a cellphone when they tried hiking out Tuesday night but ended up building their own shelter to stay out of the cold winds and rain.

“We were soaking wet, soaked clear through,” he said. “We’re going to dry our clothes out and we’re going to walk out today.”

The family was last seen at their Montesano home early Tuesday morning.  But when nobody picked up their two oldest girls from the school bus stop that afternoon friends called police.

Wednesday night Jason said he gathered rain water to drink, and stayed warm with his toddler and infant daughter inside their van.

Sheriff’s deputies from Mason and Grays Harbor counties searched miles of backcountry logging roads looking for the family. Early Thursday morning, a pair of hunters spotted the McAlister family and gave them a ride to the Matlock General Store.

Jason’s parents drove all the way from Montana, arriving early Thursday morning. They didn’t have to wait long for the good news.

“We felt very grateful, very grateful,” said Jason’s mother, Mary McAlister. “Family is what it’s all about, we need to pray for each other.”

Medics checked out everyone, Jason said they are doing fine.

He believes his volunteer firefighter training helped him keep his cool during a stressful 48 hours.

“Make sure you have plenty of warm clothes, and be smart and not panic,” he said.