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Rescued Utah hunters and their wives share story of survival and fear

Posted at 6:31 PM, Feb 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-04 20:41:29-05

WEBER COUNTY, Utah — Friends and hunting buddies, Chad Strain and Lee Peters, are back home safe after a rabbit hunting trip went terribly wrong.

The Weber County men headed out early Saturday morning and started looking for the perfect place to go hunting. After some searching, they said they came across an area about 30 miles south of Jackpot, Nevada.

“There’s a bunch of gullies and stuff, good rabbit country I guess you would call it, so figured we would go up there and came across the snow drift,” Strain said.

That is when things went downhill, the duo recalled. The truck got stuck and they weren’t prepared, Peters admits.

“Usually we have a shovel, we have chains — we didn’t have anything. So, trying to dig out that seven hours was really just an ice scraper and I think my hat and a piece of wood from a fence,” he said.

As the night went on, the men knew they were in trouble.

“At that point in time it kind of kicked in that we are screwed and we are not getting out,” Strain said.

They started walking and looking for people, cell service, any way to get help. They even started a fire at one point to try to gain attention, with no luck. As time went on, the friends walked back to the truck where they had food, water and hoped for warmth.

“We just watched how much gas I had left because it will tell you how many miles until empty, so as we would get cold we would let it run for about a mile and then shut it back off,” Strain said.

While the hunters were out in the elements, their loved ones back home were also scared.

“I had that fear from the moment we got there that we would never see them again,” Lee’s wife Robin Peters said.

Chad’s wife, Cassiea Strain, stayed home and along with family and friends set up a command center in Weber County. There, they took phone calls, got the word out on social media and to local news stations.

“Not knowing was killing us,” she said.

Robin, along with several others, headed out and started looking. At one point there were 60 cars and around 200 people searching, a family member said.

The weather was also not on the hunters’ side. Chad describing the cold as numbing.

“Each storm that rolled through I held my breath that they weren’t hurt,” Robin said.

After two nights and three days, Chad and Lee were found safe Monday evening in Elko County, Nevada near the Granite Creek Reservoir by Search and Rescue members and volunteers. Box Elder County and Elko County sheriff's departments assisted in searching.

“I seen Lee jump out of the truck and I just died because I didn’t figure I would ever hold them again,” Robin said.

“To hear him say, ‘hey baby I’m okay, I’m okay, I’m completely okay,’ you can’t explain the weight that just rushes out of your whole body,” Cassiea said through tears.

The men said they tried to keep their emotions in check and stay positive, but once they were found and saw their loved ones the emotions started flowing.

“I think as a whole we take things we have for granted a lot and like I said things like this kind if puts that back in perspective,” Lee said.

The hunters say their days of rabbit hunting are not over, but they won’t be going out without being prepared. The item they now consider a must have: a satellite phone.