Family Explains What Likely Killed Man Stranded With Wife

Ronnie Barker had part of his lung removed
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 8, 2022 9:20 AM CDT
Family Explains What Likely Killed Man Stranded With Wife
Mountains are reflected in an evaporation pond at the Silver Peak lithium mine in Esmeralda County, Nev. on Jan. 30, 2017. An Indiana couple missing for about a week has been found near the remote mountain area of southern Nevada, but the husband was dead and the wife was taken to a hospital.   (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP, File)

(Newser) – An Indiana couple that had been missing for more than a week were at peace with the world as the husband died a day before rescuers reached the wife, their nephew said Thursday. Beverly Barker, 69, was released from a Reno, Nevada, hospital Wednesday, a day after rescuers found her and the body of her husband, Ronnie, 72. "She was at peace with what was happening. Ronnie was at peace. They were lying together in the back seat of the Kia Soul," Travis Peters of Indianapolis said in a telephone interview with the AP, explaining he spoke with his aunt for more than an hour on Thursday. The couple passed the time together staring at the sky, watching passing aircraft and the stars, he said.

The couple was found Tuesday in the mountainous, forested high-desert in the remote Silver Peak area of Esmeralda County about 177 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Both were with the Kia passenger car they had been towing behind a 32-foot motor home before the RV got stuck in mud. They apparently decided to try to continue on in the car before it too got stuck. Peters said his uncle had had part of his lung removed and could not get enough oxygen to survive in the high altitude where they were stranded. "My uncle Ronnie was a cancer survivor from exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. It seems apparent to me that Ronnie was struggling even that first day getting air to his lungs."

Peters criticized Nevada authorities for not doing more to find the couple. They relied on the family to do most of the work looking for the two and did not post a silver alert for eight days, he said. "My uncle Ronnie died 26 hours before rescuers found my aunt. Maybe he’d still be alive" with a more timely silver alert, Peters said of Nevada officials. "They drug their feet until Monday night." Peters has directed most of his criticism about the handling of the search at Esmeralda County Sheriff Kenneth Elgan, who didn’t immediately respond to new requests for comment on Thursday.

(Read more Nevada stories.)

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