PHOENIX – They spent 60 years together and traveled to Africa, China, South America and other parts of the world.
But it was a relatively short drive from the Phoenix area to their home in Albuquerque, N.M., and a fateful decision to take a forest road as a shortcut that separated Dana and Elizabeth Davis.
They became stranded in their Buick and stayed in the car for five nights through two snowstorms, until it ran out of gas and they decided to walk to safety. Elizabeth Davis, 82, collapsed and died, and 86-year-old Dana Davis survived after walking eight miles in the cold and spent a freezing night under a tree before being rescued.
He was recuperating Thursday in a hospital in Globe, and was in good condition.
Authorities provided new details Thursday about Davis' amazing survival in the cold in the rugged mountains east of Phoenix.
He tried to revive his wife, but kept moving after realizing she had died.
Davis kept a detailed map that would allow rescuers to find his wife's body, whether he made it to safety or not, said Detective Johnny Holmes of the Gila County Sheriff's Office. He also left items such as a sunglass case or pieces of yarn tied on a tree at various forks in the unpaved mountain road as markers, Holmes said.
"I think the main intention ... in making the map was that if someone found him that they could go get his wife out," Holmes said. "That was his main concern with me when I spoke with him."
Davis was found walking along a road and was rescued by a wildlife officer with the San Carlos Apache Tribe on Wednesday morning.
The couple's children, Don Davis of Philadelphia and Lonnie Sexton of San Francisco, flew into Phoenix Thursday and planned to talk to the media about their parents' ordeal on Friday, Cobre Valley Regional Medical Center spokeswoman Evelyn Vargas said.
Holmes said an autopsy was planned on Elizabeth Davis' body, but the results could take weeks.
Vargas spoke with Dana Davis for about 30 minutes on Wednesday night and said he was awake, alert and eating turkey and yams. He spoke at length about his wife, who he called Betty, and their life together.
The couple had celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this past year while traveling in Asia. Davis told her the couple had traveled the world.
"He was just talking about his travels, he and his wife," Vargas said. "He said, 'you know, Betty had never left New England before we got married, and she's the one that started all these trips for us.' They absolutely loved to travel. They loved to look at wildlife."
Detective Seth Tyler of the Chandler, Ariz., police department said the couple had been visiting a nephew in the suburb southeast of Phoenix. They set out along U.S. 60 rather than the interstate on Dec. 1 because they wanted to visit a wildlife refuge near Socorro, N.M.
But U.S. 60 splits, and they accidentally ended up on a different highway. Realizing their mistake, Tyler said, the couple consulted a map and decided to take a forest road that connects to U.S. 60.
The couple drove their Buick sedan for miles up the forest road, but eventually the transmission went out, Holmes said. They decided to venture out after running out of gas.
Neither Tyler nor Holmes knew if the couple had any food in their car.
Tyler said it also was unclear if the woman had any medical conditions that might have contributed to her collapse.
"He just said she collapsed and he made it sound like she died pretty quickly," Tyler said.
Tyler said the couple did not have a cell phone but that wouldn't have mattered.
"There is no service out there," he said. "It's pristine wilderness not touched very often by man."
Associated Press writer Jeri Clausing in Albuquerque contributed to this story.
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