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Rescued, not out of woods

The girl, 15, suffered frostbite while lost for three days in a forest in Northern California. Her stay may be brief.

December 21, 2007|Eric Bailey | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — A 15-year-old high school student rescued with family members after three nights in a stormy Northern California forest was rushed back to the hospital Thursday with throbbing pain caused by frostbite in her toes.

Alexis Dominguez returned for observation and treatment about 2:30 a.m., cutting short her first night home after the snowbound ordeal. She remained hospitalized through the day.

Such return visits are "pretty typical with frostbite," said Heidi Roberts, a spokeswoman at Feather River Hospital in Paradise, Calif., near the family's home.

Alexis and her family -- father Frederick Dominguez, 38, and two brothers, Christopher, 18, and Joshua, 12 -- were rescued by a California Highway Patrol helicopter crew Wednesday after surviving a storm that dumped more than 2 feet of snow.

The four had set out after church Sunday afternoon to cut down a Christmas tree in the woods about 12 miles from their home in Paradise, a rural enclave in the mountains east of Chico, Calif.

But during the course of looking for a tree they became disoriented and got lost as night fell and a storm set in.

They spent the first night in a makeshift lean-to made from tree branches, then hunkered down the next two evenings in a culvert beneath a backwoods logging road. Temperatures plunged to the mid-20s and winds lashed the family, outfitted only in jeans, light jackets and sneakers.

By the second day, the girl's toes grew blackened with frostbite, and her father began rubbing them in an effort to ease the chill. He also wrapped her feet in a sweat shirt.

When they were rescued from he woods shortly after noon Wednesday, the family appeared tired, cold and hungry but otherwise remarkably robust. The color had begun to return to Alexis' toes, and the family was released that evening, appearing a short time later on CNN for an interview.

But in the middle of the night the pain became too much for the high school cheerleader to take, requiring a return to the hospital, the family said.

eric.bailey@latimes.com

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