June 23 2018
A family was out enjoying the snow in California's Tahoe National Forest when suddenly, the unthinkable happened.
Ten-year-old Samantha White had plunged into a giant 10-foot snow hole – and when her dad tried to help, she only fell in further.
To make matters worse, they were told help from 911 wouldn't arrive for at least an hour, said her dad William White.
"Sammy's screaming, "don't let go of me, Daddy!' and my wife is screaming at me, "don't let go of Samantha!'" White recounted on Fox and Friends.
"I fell into what I thought was powder, and then I felt my leg hanging," Samantha White said.
Her father, Will, tried to pull her out. But the situation only got worse. He too was sliding in. Her father, a former firefighter, said the hardest thing he had to do was let go.
"I thought about it for what seemed like forever, but it was probably only 3 or 4 seconds, you can only hope that when you let go, you have to live with that," Will White said.
Samantha fell 10 feet under, into a snow cave. He says he had to let go to get in a better position. But still he could not get his daughter out. So he called 911. But he was told help wouldn't arrive for at least an hour.
At this point, Samantha was crying, ankle-deep in ice water. Fear, claustrophobia and hypothermia were all starting to become concerns. Until a miracle in the form of 15 snowshoeing rescuers suddenly came walking toward the White family.
Thankfully, a search-and-rescue unit happened to be in the right place at the right time.
Bob Gehlen of Marin County Sheriff's Office said his team was hiking on the mountain when they spotted the family's dilemma.
"I yelled down to Samantha that help was on the way, that we were here and she would be out shortly," said Gehlen.
The team managed to pull the little girl, who was ankle-deep in ice water, out safely.
"I feel good today," Samantha said. "It was just really scary when I was in the hole."
"They said 'Can we help?' and I said, 'Who are you?' 'We're Marin County Search and Rescue.' I said 'Hell ya, you could help!'" White said.
The team, who was in the forest for a training session, immediately went into action. This suddenly became a real rescue mission.
"They threw down a rope with a loop, and it went over my head and under my arms and they pulled me up," Samantha White said.
Ten minutes later, Samantha was back on snow, uninjured and safe. But how did the rescuers know the White family would be there, and need their help?
Will White said they were just at the right place at the right time.
"Luck. Good luck, lots of good luck," White said.
As for Samantha, this incident did shake her up a bit. She feels lucky to be alive. But it is not deterring her from quitting snowshoeing all together.
She is planning to go back to the forest to snowshoe on Saturday. She promised to stay on the trail.
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