Family rescued after mud slide: 'I thank God we're back'

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) -- Four members of a missing Meridian family were reunited with loved ones after being flown out of the Idaho backcounty by an Idaho National Guard Black Hawk helicopter Tuesday morning.

The Black Hawk landed at Gowen Field around 9:30 a.m. Then Steven and Heather Rice and their two sons were wrapped in the warm embrace of family and friends who had been anxiously waiting.

"I just want to give thanks," said Heather Rice. "Thank God we're back."

She says the hardest part was: "Not knowing, not knowing if we were going to find how to get home. Not knowing what to do. That was the scary part." | -----> Watch the Reunion

And she gave thanks to the Idaho National Guard. "Thank God for them," she said. "Thank God they're here."

It was supposed to be a simple day hunting excursion, Steven and Heather Rice said. But they were cut off by a mudslide and did not return by 4 p.m. Sunday, the time family and friends expected them home.

A search ensued and on Monday afternoon, the Elmore County Sheriff's Office requested assistance from the Idaho Army National Guard.

In the evening, an Apache helicopter equipped with night vision equipment was launched from Gowen Field. The Apache crew soon found the Rice family at the Graham Bridge Campground on Forest Service Road 312.

The guardsmen were able to land and speak with the Rice family, and found they were well and had taken refuge in a ranger cabin.

The Apache helicopter is a two-seat aircraft; it could not airlift the family out Monday evening. However, the soldiers were able to leave the family with a survival kit including food, water, cold weather gear and a shelter.

Tuesday morning, the larger Black Hawk flew in and rescued the family of four. Their vehicle will be recovered later.