Leia Carrico, 8, says she protected her 5-year-old sister Caroline as they slept in a Northern California forrest after wandering away from home

By Char Adams
March 05, 2019 11:30 AM
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A pair of California sisters, ages 5 and 8, say they used their camping prowess to survive in the woods for 44 hours after wandering away from home and getting lost.

Leia, 8, and 5-year-old Carolina Carrico were found safe in a wooded area just 1.4 miles from their family’s Benbow home around 10:30 a.m. local time on Sunday, police said in a statement. And the girls had a shocking story to share after surviving in the woods alone for nearly two days.

“We go on camping a lot each summer,” Leia said during an interview with Good Morning America. “I knew how to start a fire because I watch a lot of Tropical Paradise.”

The girls took off into the woods on Friday afternoon after asking their mother, Misty Carrico, if they could go on a hike, according to GMA. Misty, who said no and had been busy at the time, said she realized the children were gone about half an hour later.

Leia and Caroline said they had been following a deer trail when they got lost and decided to stay put, officials with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office said in the statement.

“Leia wanted a little, tiny more adventure. But I wanted more,” Caroline told GMA. Leia added: “I wasn’t sure which way home was but it turned out that home was way back south.”

Credit: Humboldt County Sheriff's Office

So, they remained in the forest, drinking fresh water from leaves and using Caroline’s rain jacket for shelter. They cuddled together as the temperature dropped and Leia told GMA she did all she could to calm her little sister and keep her safe.

“My sister cried the whole night and I told her to keep happy thoughts of our family,” Leia recalled. “Caroline slept a little, but I kept watch on both nights.”

Meanwhile, the girls’ parents reported them missing and a massive search for the children ensued. More than 250 law enforcement and military personnel helped in the large search-and-rescue operation, police said. The sheriff’s office said Saturday that crews were following a trail of granola bar wrappers found in the woods after the girls’ mother confirmed she’d recently bought the same brand.

“I wasn’t hopeful after the first night and it being 38 degrees and it pouring, pouring rain,” Misty told GMA. “I constantly heard my kids screaming for help in my head.”

She added: “I felt awful, terrified and guilty.”

Ultimately, it was the kids’ boot prints that led rescuers in their direction. They were reunited with their parents on Sunday morning. Photos of the emotional reunion showed Misty and their father, Travis Carrico, embracing the girls.

Credit: Humboldt County Sheriff's Office

“I was so worried about you,” Travis told Caroline, adding that the little girl was in “so much trouble,” according to video footage from the North Coast Journal newspaper.

As for Misty, she said there will be no punishment for her daughters.

“They saved each other,” she told GMA. “I’m the proud mom. I raised superheroes.”