View Full Version : Dad, three kids vanish on outing to cut Christmas tree

19-12-07, 20:29

Dad, three kids vanish on outing to cut Christmas tree
By Hudson Sangree And Dorothy Korber - hsangree@sacbee.com

Last Updated 7:22 am PST Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Crews hunt for the Dominguez family as snow falls above Inskip in Butte County on Tuesday. The four family members vanished on Sunday. Bill Husa / Chico Enterprise-Record

PARADISE – The Dominguez family set off Sunday afternoon, dressed in T-shirts, jeans, light jackets, and sneakers. Their plan was to drive into the mountains near Inskip, find the perfect Christmas tree and head back home to Paradise.

Later, someone would report seeing them walking into the woods with a saw at about 5 p.m. Sunday.

After that, nothing.

They didn't reckon on a fierce storm that would dump snow by the yard over the next 48 hours. As darkness fell Tuesday, more than 50 exhausted searchers had found no sign of Frederick Dominguez, 38, and his children Christopher, 18, Alexis, 15, and Joshua, 12.

Searchers maintained hope Tuesday evening that somehow the four had found shelter somewhere. But the situation was becoming more desperate by the hour, said Madde Watts, an officer with the Butte County Sheriff's Search and Rescue Team.

"This is very steep, rugged terrain, with a lot of manzanita and brush mixed with tall timber," she said. "The elevation ranges from 4,000 to 6000. It's been really cold up there. The weather has moved in, the terrain is difficult. It's desperate, all right."

Watts said the search was scaled back for the night, but the teams were gearing up to start again at dawn.

The children's mother, Lisa Sams of Paradise, reported the family missing Monday evening after she learned that Josh had not shown up for school.

Sams said Dominguez, her ex-husband, had moved to Paradise from Southern California recently to be closer to their children. Going to the woods to cut his own Christmas tree was a novel experience for him, she said, but a tradition for the three children.

On Tuesday night, about a dozen people were keeping vigil with Lisa Sams. A wood stove warmed her small house on the outskirts of Paradise. The phone rang frequently while a big-screen TV played the news.

The mood was somber as they shared Kentucky Fried Chicken on paper plates.

The 38-year-old mother said the previous 12 hours had felt like 24.

"It's been full of ups and downs," she said. "You get really depressed. But then we try to make jokes to keep our spirits up: We worried if when they get back they'll be mad that we could have picked better pictures of them for the media."

She said the response from the community – and from all over Northern California – has been tremendous. Search and rescue teams from the Oregon border to the Bay Area have converged on remote Inskip to help with the hunt. The weather precluded an aerial search, but people combed the hills on foot and in snowmobiles.

"We're trying to be as hopeful as we can," said Barbara Sams, Lisa's mother. "Maybe they're huddling somewhere keeping warm. They're a very close family – they wouldn't split up. Freddy is a good dad – he'd give the kids the clothes off his back."

The three children are active kids, said their aunt, Wendy Wilson, 21.

The youngest, 12-year-old Josh, attends Paradise Intermediate School. He likes skateboarding, bike riding, and shooting air guns, Wilson said. Alexis is a cheerleader and soccer player at Paradise High. Christopher is in his first year at Butte College and works nights at Feather River Hospital.

Their dad works for Hunter's Pest Control, which the owner closed Tuesday to allow employees to join in the search.

Sams reported the four missing at 6:20 p.m. Monday. Three hours later, Dominguez's 1991 Chevrolet pickup was found on the Skyway road two miles north of Inskip in an area popular among locals cutting Christmas trees. The ground under the truck was free of snow, evidence it was parked before the storm started.

The truck was parked safely in a turnout, said Sgt. Steve Rowe of the Paradise Police Department.

He said the family's disappearance remains a mystery.

"I don't want to speculate on what happened, but there's no foul play indicated," Rowe said. "I don't know if they got lost in the snow when they hiked out to cut the tree. It's also possible the vehicle broke down and they walked off to find shelter."

Rowe stressed that no additional volunteers are needed for the search.

"We don't want anybody else going up there and getting lost – then we'd have to find them, as well," he said. "We have experienced people up there – our surrounding counties have sent search team members too – and they know what they're doing. They have dogs with them."

It's not unusual for Christmas tree cutters to get stuck in the snow or lost, said Watts of the Butte County search-and-rescue team.

"I think it's very easy to get lost when you're hunting a Christmas tree," she said. "It's, oh, there's a good one! Hey, there's another one! You wander off and you can get totally turned around, even with no snow."

She said the search for the Dominguez family is exceptional and frightening because the weather is so bad – and they've been missing so long. Still, she hasn't given up hope.

"There are a lot of cabins tucked in different nooks and crannies, and we're checking all of them," she said. "Best case, they've taken shelter in one of them."

The forecast for the area is more snow through Thursday night.

19-12-07, 20:30
Wow, that's terrible!

19-12-07, 20:33
Omg! Hope they get found.

19-12-07, 20:35
Goodness ... that's horrible.

I hope they get back okay.

star girl
19-12-07, 20:48
Woahh.. :(

19-12-07, 21:07
no comments just ... :( :( :(

19-12-07, 21:09
That's very sad! I seriously hope they are found alive and well. :(

SpongeBob Lover
19-12-07, 21:42
Awww noo!! poor family!! I hoped they are okay!! :(

19-12-07, 21:44
Im sure nothings wrong, probably under a shelter, waiting for the weather to calm.:)

19-12-07, 22:07
This is a very sad story... and a reminder of how small and helpless we still can be in the face of Nature. People really need to think and prepare when they venture away from the settled areas.

19-12-07, 22:27
The good news is they were found, alive! but all with hyperthermia. I'll post links as soon as I have them.

This is breaking news, so the details are sketchy. Thanks for all the kind thoughts, I can't help but feel the positive vibes were helpful.

Father, three children found alive in California mountains

Associated Press - December 19, 2007 4:44 PM ET

PARADISE, Calif. (AP) - Rescuers say a father and his three children who have been missing since Sunday in the California mountains have been found alive.

Search teams struggling through deep snow drifts rescued the family today.

2 of Frederick Dominguez's children emerged from a rescue helicopter after being flown out of the mountains this afternoon.

They were immediately enveloped in a cluster of well-wishers carrying heavy blankets.

The family had been missing since they headed into the woods over the weekend to hunt for a Christmas tree.


19-12-07, 22:41
Nice to hear a good ending to this. It doesn't take much to get lost in the mountians. Weird stuff can happen up there.

19-12-07, 22:45
I'm so glad they were found, too many bad things happen over Christmas. My mother was thoroughly depressing me by telling me about some woman who hung herself in the attic while getting presents for her children. :( Then she was telling me how heart wrenching it is to not be able to afford to buy presents for your children over Christmas.

19-12-07, 22:48
Thank god. Knew they were ok. :)

20-12-07, 12:52
Thats spooky... :(

I hope they turn up safe & alive :)

20-12-07, 12:53
That's horrible :eek:

20-12-07, 13:53
I saw this on the comp a quarter hour ago. :p

Freaky though.

20-12-07, 19:23
Hope they're alright. :(

20-12-07, 19:26
...no comments...:(:(

EDIT:*slams head into a wall* (http://www.tombraiderforums.com/showpost.php?p=2333531&postcount=11)

20-12-07, 19:47
Hope they're alright. :(

You know what? They are.

myrmaad: You might want to edit the original post to say that they have been found. I think it would help against confusion.

20-12-07, 19:53
Glad they were found ! :)

21-12-07, 00:28
That's what happens when you **** around with a frasier fir. I've been telling people this for years. I bet next time they go to cut down a tree, they bring a saw to protect themselves.

21-12-07, 03:16
This is a very sad story... and a reminder of how small and helpless we still can be in the face of Nature. People really need to think and prepare when they venture away from the settled areas.

Ditto.... :(

21-12-07, 04:00
I saw that on the news