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ALBUQUERQUE – A father and son were headed home to El Paso, after being found Tuesday in the Gila National Forest, where they had been missing for days in extremely cold temperatures.
Robert Fritz, 55, and his son, Austin, 15, were found before noon Tuesday on the Little Creek Trail in southwestern New Mexico, state police search and rescue spokesman Peter Olson said.
Both suffered from hypothermia, he said. Hypothermia is a dangerous decrease in the body’s core temperature.
“The boy is in not quite as good a shape as the dad, but they’re going to make it,” Olson said.
A Border Patrol helicopter spotted the pair, landed and checked them out, he said.
The helicopter was too small to take both of them out at once, so the crew ferried the teenager to the trailhead incident base about nine miles away.
The helicopter returned for the elder Fritz, and the two were taken to Gila Regional Medical Center in Silver City.
Olson said they refused further treatment and headed back to El Paso.
The pair had trekked into the rugged Gila on Dec. 27.
Three days later, the area was hit by a winter storm, which dumped more than a foot of snow and left extremely cold temperatures. When the father and son did not return from their five-day backpacking trip Friday night or Saturday, a family member called authorities. The search was launched Sunday.
Searchers did not originally know the pair’s itinerary, but Olson said relatives later gave them a better idea of their destination, which helped focus rescue efforts.