TODAY

TODAY   |  December 16, 2013

Rescued Nev. family: ‘We’ll forever be grateful’

The Nevada family that survived two days of sub-zero-temperatures in the wilderness speaks out about their ordeal in an exclusive interview with TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie.

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

>> we'll start with a story that really gripped the country. in a moment, the family that spent two nights stranded in the nevada wilderness will open up about their ordeal for the first time but here's nbc's miguel almaguer with their remarkable story of survival.

>> reporter: ever since they were found alive and well , this small town has been celebrating.

>> this community came together and helped this come to a successful conclusion.

>> reporter: the family became stranded during a sunday afternoon drive when their jeep overturned on a dirt road 30 miles outside of town. it was going slowly at the time and no one was hurt in the rollover.

>> this is where you can begin to see the footprints in the snow. just up the hill here, here's the overturned jeep.

>> reporter: but the accident was only the start of this family's ordeal. overnight, the temperatures fell to minus 15 degrees. glanton , mcintee and the children had to survive three days on the mountain. they lit a fire and burned a spare tire down to the bone. they also heated up rocks like this one and put them inside the car to keep the kids warm at night. glanton burned the tire in hopes of attracting the attention of search and rescue teams. helicopters passed overhead on two occasions without spotting them. the family was finally rescued by a group of volunteers including chris montez who has known glanton since high school .

>> everybody in the town was looking for them.

>> reporter: despite the harsh conditions, everyone came home in good health. a family strength and a community support. a miracle just before christmas. for today, miguel almaguer, nbc news, nevada.

>>> they're with us exclusively this morning along the children. good morning to all of you.

>> good morning.

>> can you think about where you were one week ago. how is everybody doing?

>> we're doing good.

>> must feel like a whirlwind.

>> it's been a long week.

>> yeah.

>> back to that moment, sunday afternoon, you decide to get in the car, the jeep, and check out the snow. how did the accident happen in the first place?

>> we were coming downhill and hit a patch of ice and it just shot us over into the bank. it was a really slow motion rollover. i mean, it didn't even shatter the window. it broke the top of it but it didn't shatter the window.

>> you collect yourself and realize the circumstances you're in. what's going through your mind at that point?

>> are we going home ?

>> wondering how long you'll be out there.

>> yeah. but the kids were awesome. they were calm.

>> well, i have to tell you, reading about what you went through, this is one of the things that struck me the most, how on earth you kept these four little ones calm and not panicked for more than two days fridged cold.

>> well, the boys saw it as just camping in the jeep. they were actually really good about it. they were all really well. shelby was a big help when the children -- the younger ones started getting worried. she stepped in. she is a little momma. she did a good job.

>> well, you're not just an ordinary guy out for a sunday drive. you have a lot of survival skills and backcountry experience. what's the first thing you did? and you had supplies with you, right?

>> i did. we had matches, lighters, magnesium fire starter. we had some water. didn't have much in the way of food. but we had a bit.

>> do you always have those kind of supplies with you or was this for this trip in particular.

>> no, that's just normal stuff in the jeep.

>> and how long were you prepared to be out there? this is an incredibly remote area christine.

>> maybe one more day. i don't think we would have lasted another two days.

>> how afraid were you?

>> i got scared the second day.

>> there were a couple of times as i understand it rescuers got very close.

>> very.

>> and you heard them and saw a helicopter overhead.

>> well, we saw two different planes. two of the smaller single engine, like crop duster style.

>> and you tried to signal them?

>> yeah, i had a fire going and i had green pine in it. so i had a lot of white smoke. it was surrounded by snowy mountains which made it kind of difficult to see i guess.

>> i can't imagine what that's like. you come so close to someone coming near and you able to rescue you and then they pass over you. you just must be crushed in that moment.

>> that was rough. that was hard.

>> so for people who are looking at this story and wondering about this area and thinking should you have been out there driving in these conditions, what would your response be?

>> that's what we do. we're from a small town . we don't have anything in the way of entertainment besides the hills. that's what we do. that's where we live.

>> it turns out your community which is very close nit was out in force looking for you. how did it feel christine when you saw someone you know, a friend of yours from high school come down in the snow?

>> i was speechless. i didn't think -- i wasn't sure what was going to happen. i'm glad that they were there.

>> one of the things that i think made the difference according to authorities is that you stayed together and apparently that's unusual. was there ever a time as these days wore on when you thought maybe one of us should go for help? how did you know what to do?

>> we talked about it but we decided together that we should stay there and just, you know, we figured our best chance was with the jeep because it was the most visible. rather than a single person walking out in the wilderness.

>> what would you want to say for those that looked so hard for you and saved you.

>> thank you.

>> a great big thank you. we'll forever be grateful. there's no other way to say it.

>> a lot of people are very impressed by your resourcefulness and calm and we're so happy you're back together and can enjoy the holidays.

>> thank you.

>> thank you for being here.