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An American woman stranded in a freezing storm survived six days in the wilderness by eating tomatoes and snow, and sheltering in a hollowed-out tree, as her boyfriend died trying to find help.Paula Lane, 46, and her boyfriend Roderick Clifton, 44, were reported missing after their Jeep Cherokee got stuck on a dirt road in the Sierra Nevada mountains on Nov 29.
A search involving a helicopter failed to locate them but Miss Lane, a mother of twin 11-year-old boys, was eventually found by her brother Gary, who had refused to give up looking.
He discovered her crawling through the snow as he searched for her in a rented digger.
Miss Lane’s older sister, Linda Hathaway, told reporters at a hospital in Carson City, Nevada: “We couldn’t stop him (Gary,) we just let him do what he had to do. He had a feeling. They have a special bond, they really do.
“Last night, I gave her the biggest kiss I could without hurting her. My sister may be little, but she’s mighty. She is a survivor and she loves life. God was looking over her.
“All I can tell you, is she wants to get better so she can get home to her babies. It’s been a rough haul, waiting all those days, trying to know if she’d made it or not.”
Miss Lane was suffering from mild frostbite on her toes and was malnourished, but doctors said her condition was remarkably good after nearly a week in the mountains.
According to Undersheriff Robert Levy in Alpine County, California, Mr Clifton had been trying out the four-wheel-drive on a 1989 Jeep Cherokee he had just bought, and drove around a locked gate blocking a dirt road in an area with no mobile phone reception.
Such roads had been closed that day by the US Forest Service ahead of an expected storm.
The Jeep got stuck in mud near a lake in the frigid Hope Valley and the couple spent the night inside the vehicle.
The following morning Mr Clifton attempted to walk to a highway six miles away but did not reach it.
Miss Lane, from Gardnerville, Nevada, stayed with the vehicle for four days before eventually attempted to crawl to safety, taking shelter in a hollow tree along the way.
She ate tomatoes that the couple had with them in the Jeep.
Miss Lane later told emergency services that she had come across Mr Clifton’s body while making her way down the dirt road. It was recovered by searchers on snowmobiles.
Dr Vijay Maiya said: “Once she found out her loved one wasn’t coming back she knew she couldn’t stay in the truck and attempted to then go and find help on her own.
“She realised after she left that she couldn’t make it, so she had a blanket and tomatoes and stayed in a hollowed tree until rescued. She was lucky.
“She is currently in stable condition and recovering nicely. She has a long road ahead of her, both physically and emotionally.”