REDWOOD CITY, California - His family and loved-ones call it a miracle. After he went missing in the Mendocino National Forest for 19 days, 72-year-old Filipino hunter, Gene Penaflor, was finally found and rescued.
The avid hunter, who lives in San Francisco, went deer hunting with a friend on September 23. The next day, he failed to show up at their meeting place after a morning hunt.
After his friend filed a missing persons report, the Lake County Sheriff’s Department began searching for him. There were some days that search and rescue efforts were suspended, because of the bad weather in the area.
The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office said fellow hunters found Penaflor, who was in a hard-to-reach area just north of Lake Pillsbury. He was located more than three miles from the point where he was last seen by his hunting partner.
During the 19 days he was lost in the wilderness, authorities said it snowed many times with temperatures ranging between 25 and 70 degrees at times.
He received some medical treatment before being airlifted to a hospital.
Penaflor is still recovering and has temporarily lost his voice.
"My uncle is doing fine. He’s home. He’s happy to be home. He’s very excited to see his family again," said Penaflor's nephew, Julius Bura.
Bura said his uncle survived the wilderness because he never panicked.
"He stayed focused. He had a rifle with him, a lighter and two garbage bags. To keep himself warm, he burned leaves, and he would use the garbage to wrap his upper body," he said.
Bura added that Penaflor also ate a snake, squirrels and lizards, and drank from a creek which contained algae.
"He was in survival mode," he added.
Bura said Penaflor’s family and loved-ones stayed strong and positive throughout the ordeal because of their faith.
"We prayed everyday that the Heavenly Father would bring him home safely to us. And a miracle happened," he shared.