Nightly News   |  December 11, 2013

Retracing the steps of Nevada crash survivors

A family of six is recovering after spending three days and two nights in subzero temperatures. Rescue teams say the decisions they made under duress became the difference between life and death. NBC’s Miguel Almaguer reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we are learning new details tonight about the family including four children rescued in good shape after spending two nights in sub zero temperatures in the mountains of nevada . miguel almaguer made his way to the scene and has our report.

>> reporter: from this nevada hospital comes a story of survival, what's been dubbed the miracle in the mountains. the six survivors aren't speaking tonight, but the doctor who treated them is.

>> they were driving around playing in the slow, started sliding down the slow and they said it was like slow motion .

>> reporter: on our journey to retrace their steps we take you through the rugged and remote high dessert where the family including four children aged 3 through 10 spent two nights trapped in negative 20 degree weather. we had to off road 30 minutes . this is where you see footprints in the snow. just up the hill, here is the overturned jeep. amazing anybody could have survived this crash. we found the jeep still leaking gas, smelling of fuel. the family was dressed for the snow but they were prepared in other ways. they had bottles of water. we found a machete, a flashlight and they used the interior of the jeep for shelter at night. search teams say james kept the family alive by keeping them together and staying with the vehicle.

>> he did a hell of a job keeping the kids safe. not a lot of people would have been able to do that for two days in sub zero temperatures.

>> reporter: the family gathered sage brush and burned a spare tire down to the bone to keep warm. we are told they heated up rocks like this one and put them inside the vehicle at night to keep the kids warm. [ applause ]

>> reporter: suffering from dehydration, in a statement the family asked for privacy, thanking search and rescue teams for their dedication. a happy ending few thought they would ever see. miguel almaguer, nbc news, nevada .