Cross country team’s chance encounter saved missing hunter

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A New Mexico hunter went missing for about two days. Lost in the wilderness, his chances weren’t looking so good, but a chance encounter changed everything.

“The odds were very much against him,” said Cuba Fire Chief Rick Romero.

Battling freezing temperatures, no food, no shelter and no sign of a way out.

“For somebody to even walk through it with the amount of downed trees, it’s almost impossible,” said Romero.

It was a matter of life and death for 65-year-old Ronnie Duran after he got lost in the woods. He was last seen hunting near the La Paloma Trail in the Jemez Mountains on Tuesday. He was gone for 36 hours, but a chance encounter saved his life when Duran came face to face with the Cuba High School Cross Country team.

 Officials said Duran traveled for about ten miles before making his way to Vallecitos. That’s where the cross country team ran into him.

“I was almost finished running and I was making a turn and I see him right there and I was wondering who it was because no one’s up there,” said Cuba cross country runner Osiris Putnam.

“He just said if we could help him and that he was lost,” said another cross country runner, Antawn Antonio.

“After awhile seeing how he was walking and his voice and he could barely walk, that’s when I knew something was wrong with him,” said Putnam.

The team trusted their guts, and led him back to safety.

“We were like, yeah, we can help you,” said Putnam.

“We saw the boys walking and they were across the road, and we don’t let the kids walk so we were like what, ‘what are they doing?'” said Cuba’s cross country coach Mary Lou Gooris. “And there was somebody with them and it turned out they were walking back together as a team with the lost hunter, and he did have his rifle with him. We were so proud that the kids right away took this person under their wing.”

“Just happy that we found him,” said Antonio.

Locals credit the team’s quick thinking and quick feet for saving Duran’s life.

Duran suffered a sprained ankle and was disoriented when he was found. He’s now home resting. His family said they’re thankful for everyone who helped look for him.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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