Family trapped at California waterfall saved when SOS message in bottle is found

A message in a bottle helped save a group of hikers stranded at a California waterfall.

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A message in a bottle helped save a group of hikers stranded at a California waterfall.

Being saved by a message in a bottle sounds like a movie plot or a fairy tale. It was real life for a family stranded near a 40-foot waterfall in California, as their note led to their rescue in June.

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Curtis Whitson was hiking and floating down the Arroyo Seco Gorge with his 13-year-old son, Hunter Whitson, and his girlfriend, Krystal Ramirez, 33, KSBW reported. That is when they became trapped near the waterfall. A rope that was supposed to be secured at the top of the falls was missing, leaving the group without a way to climb out of the gorge, The Washington Post reported.

Whitson said he had a rope to rappel down the ledge, but the speed of the river made that difficult.

"It was an unpredictable area," Whitson told The Tribune of San Luis Obispo. "It was slippery and just too dangerous to risk. We decided it was better to be safe than sorry."

Running out of options, Whitson carved "Help" on a plastic water bottle and put a note inside," KSWB reported. "We are stuck here at the waterfall, get help please," Whitson wrote in his note.

The trio then created an "SOS" message from rocks, The Tribune reported.

At midnight, they were awakened by the sound of a California Highway Patrol helicopter, the newspaper reported. Two hikers had found the bottle about a half-mile downriver from the falls and contacted park rangers, KSBW reported.

"It was a big, huge sigh of relief," Whitson told The Tribune. "We were all dead asleep when they first came. They used the infrared to spot our campfire and said, 'This is search and rescue. You've been found.' I've never heard better words uttered in my life."

Whitson said he was amazed the bottle had done the trick.

"It blows me away how it all came perfectly together," Whitson told the Post. "What are the odds?"

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