4-H Leader Who Taught Lost Benbow Girls Outdoor Skills Being Flown to Washington, DC for Recognition
Lehnert is being honored in Washington, DC, on Tuesday for his role in teaching Leia and Caroline outdoor skills.
Last Tuesday, Lehnert, who also owns a nearby business, Redwood Adventures Sports, providing kayaking, paddle-boarding, and hiking tours as well as teaching survival skills, gave a presentation on basic strategies to implement if lost in the wilderness to the regular monthly meeting of the Miranda 4-H.
At the meeting he was given a certificate of achievement from the regional 4-H leadership for his role in helping the girls survive.
This recognition is in addition to that coming from the National 4-H organization which is flying him and his wife, all expenses paid, to their Legacy Award gala dinner where the group honors “those who make life-changing experiences possible” for youth.
Dorina Espinoz, 4-H Advisor for Humboldt and Del Norte Counties, explained that at this time “they are not sure what form the recognition will take place but he will be receiving something.”
Miranda 4-H Club leader, Shanna Archibold, said, “I’m really proud that Justin is receiving the recognition he deserves by the National 4-H.” She added that when she learned that Caroline and Leia were missing late Friday, she was worried but not frantic.
“I did know they had been taking the Outdoor Adventures Skills Project so I knew they would be okay, but it was cold and raining,” she explained.
Her main concern she said was that she knew the two girls were “really fast hikers.”
She noted that she and her now 18-year-old son had been with the girls in their survival classes for the last two years. “In Outdoor Adventures, [Leia and Caroline] keep up with the older high school boys no problem.” And, Archibold knew from the girls’ mother that authorities were starting with a small circle of search. “I just hoped the girls realized they were lost soon enough and remembered to stay put,” she said. Still, she believed the girls would likely be alright. “Even though it got so cold the first night and was raining,” she said she comforted herself with the knowledge that the girls are “fully capable, independent young women” with the information they needed to make it through this difficult experience.
Once the girls had been found, Archibold made arrangements for their project leader, Justin Lehnert to give a presentation on survival skills to their local 4-H monthly meeting which was only two days after the girls had been located.
As between 40 to 50 people crowded into the room Tuesday night, Leia and Caroline scampered around playing with their friends. The girls seemed remarkably normal and happy after their nearly two day ordeal.
Thank you cards were passed out for the youth and their leaders to sign for the dozens of agencies and volunteer groups that assisted in the search.
The room initially hushed as Lehnert began speaking on survival. He laid out a simple list of ways to be safe even when on relatively minor excursions like going to the mall.
Tell someone where you are going, he advised. Then the search area can be narrowed down. You can be found more quickly if someone knows the general area you were headed and how long you planned to be there.
Carrying a cell phone to communicate often is the quickest way to coordinate with others, he said.
If you do get lost, try to stay calm, he suggested. Stay positive. Panic can cause you to get hurt and make the situation worse. He suggested that singing, reading anything even a driver’s license, and telling stories can all help.
While lost, Leia and Caroline, had followed that suggestion. Leia told us that she and Caroline had chanted nursery rhymes loudly partly in hopes searchers would hear them and she told her sister stories to calm her when Caroline was frightened in the dark.
Lehnert also pointed out that staying put can be key to helping searchers locate you. “Only move if the situation is becoming worse or unsafe,” he said. Once the girls had accepted they were lost, they did stop trying to get home and settled in one place (about 1.4 miles from their house as the crow flies but more like six miles of up and down ravines and around obstacles, their father estimates).
If you can’t stay put, he said, create signs for the searchers. “If you have to move, drag your feet,” he said demonstrating for the club members. Scuff marks accidentally left by the girls helped searchers locate them. Or, he said you can break branches. The girls had done this while trying to make a fire and their bundle had also helped searchers narrow down an area to search.
He suggested making stick arrows to point the direction of travel.
Make it easy for searchers to find you, he advised. When preparing for wilderness excursions consider wearing bright clothing and carrying a reflective emergency blanket (see photo above.) He suggested spreading these over a bush. The girls were wearing bright colored boots which were the first things seen by the men who found them.
While lighting a fire is ideal to signal for help, he said, that task can be difficult for all but the most experienced woodsmen. He suggested carrying a flashlight or a mirror or even a metal first aid box with a shiny surface that could be used to signal aircraft or far away searchers that might not be able to hear you call.
Carry a whistle, Lehnert suggested. They can be heard over rivers and creeks. Leia and Caroline both said that while they could hear searchers at times, the searchers couldn’t hear them. A whistle might have helped attract attention.
Finding water can be crucial, Lehnert pointed out. Three to five days can be the limit of most people’s ability to function without it. “You can go three weeks or more without food,” he said. “But you must have water.
He suggested several ways for collecting clean water including sealing leaves in ziplock bags and using a rock in a reflecting emergency blanket to collect condensation.
Lehnert also suggested licking condensation off of non-poisonous leaves. Lea and Caroline had licked water off of the huckleberry bush they were using as shelter. And even though they were lost over 44 hours, they were only slightly dehydrated.
Even though the amount collected might be small, Lehnert said, “any water is better than none.”
Then he addressed finding shelter. He talked about finding areas protected from the rain including under a log or under a sheltering tree or bush with thick branches. Leia and Caroline had used both techniques to keep dry which helped keep them from hypothermia.After the talk, Lehnert passed out survival blankets, emergency kits, and other useful survival items to the youth.
Lehnert will be offering a class on basic survival training on March 16 and on March 30 where he will be discussing topics like what to do when lost, shelter building, finding safe water, and other survival skills.“I asked him to start teaching these workshops [beyond 4-H] so the skills will be more available in out community,” Archibold said.”
She added that she was extremely proud of Lehnert who has been teaching the Outdoor Adventure’s project for two years, but she said, “As much as he is receiving all the recognition right now, I also want to recognize and thank all the 4-H leaders and other youth organization volunteers who give kids life skills and confidence.”
Contact your local 4-H for more information on programs available in your area. For more information on 4-H and its programs, click here.
Long interview with the Carrico family and Delbert Chumley, one of the men who found the two sisters, below:
- Ongoing Search and Rescue for Two Young Girls in the Twin Trees Area of Southern Humboldt
- Two Young Girls Lost in the Woods Overnight in Southern Humboldt While Their Family Worries
- Sheriff’s Department Releases More on the Missing Girls in Humboldt County
- FBI and Child Abduction Team Consulting in Case of Missing Girls
- Have You Seen Us? Public Asked to Share Flyer About Missing Girls
- Private Drone ‘Almost Caused a Serious Incident’ With Search Helicopter Looking for Leia and Caroline
- A Worried Community Eager to Find Missing Girls
- 44 Hours After Two Little Girls Went Missing, They’re in Their Parents’ Arms
- Hugs and Kisses (Leia and Caroline Carrico Back Home With Mom and Dad)
- Search and Rescue Teams Came From Far and Wide
- From the Wild Woods to the National Networks, Two Humboldt Girls Handle the Test