The Marin County Sheriff’s Department said Saturday that it was beginning a rescue operation to extract Carol Kiparsky, 77, and Ian Irwin, 72, from where they have been trapped.
Exact details of what happened to the Palo Alto couple were not immediately available.
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“We’ve found Carol and Ian alive. We are working to extract them from the area,” the sheriff’s office said in a tweet, noting that the agency enlisted the help of the county’s search-and-rescue team as well as the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office.
Irwin is a leading Parkinson’s disease researcher, according to the Marin Independent Journal. Kiparsky is a prominent linguist and author of several books on language.
The couple disappeared from their cottage on Via de la Vista, a mountain outlook near Chicken Ranch Beach in Northern California, around Feb. 14.
Authorities suspected they had gone hiking in the western part of the county. After searching for days, the sheriff’s office enlisted the help of dive teams and cadaver K-9 units as expectations grew that Kiparsky and Irwin would not be found alive.
“We’ve worked tirelessly combing through all leads and areas surrounding the cottage they were vacationing at and are now calling this a recovery mission,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement on Thursday.
After speaking to rescue team members on Tuesday, John Irwin, the couple’s son, said the family was concerned something terrible had happened, NBC Bay Area reported.
“Very strange that they wouldn’t have been a mile away, two miles away,” Irwin said. “It’s like somebody picked them up and removed them from the area. That’s what I keep thinking.”
The couple never checked out of their rental cottage as scheduled on Saturday, the sheriff’s office has said. They also missed an appointment Sunday and later plans with their family, which the sheriff’s office said “is highly out of character for them.”
Housekeepers found all of their belongings still in the vacation cottage last weekend, including their cellphones, wallets and vehicle.
Phil McCausland is an NBC News reporter focused on rural issues and the social safety net.