ESMERALDA COUNTY, Nev. (KLAS) — Family members of an Indiana couple who had been missing for more than a week are trying to figure out how they got lost in Nevada’s high desert.
Beverly Barker survived, but her husband, Ronnie Barker, didn’t.
Authorities say the 72-year-old was dead when a search team reached the couple Tuesday about 177 miles northwest of Las Vegas. They also say 69-year-old Beverley Barker was airlifted to a Reno hospital where she’s reportedly in good shape.
The pair had been traveling from Oregon to Arizona. A nephew said Beverly Barker’s text message pleading for help was delayed and didn’t go through until Tuesday night after the Barkers had already been found.
A long social media post from Ronnie and Beverly Barker’s nephew Travis Peters tells the story of what happened and how his Uncle Ronnie died. The story was told to Peters by his aunt, who he said had been released from a Reno hospital.
Peters said it was the couple’s GPS that told them to take a road that would eventually point them up a mountain west of Silver Peak, Nevada, about 30 miles west of Goldfield. Beverly said the “highway” option in the GPS setting was not selected, and that led it to point them to a county road.
“Bev recalls they … saw other cars, I believe she even mentioned another motorhome was seen,” Peters wrote. “The directions had them making turns and they knew they were going up a mountain, but I don’t think they ever had a fear that they were doing anything wrong. Bev said that the RV was doing just fine on the road other than the fact that they had to slow down because the trailer dolly was bouncing around if they went too fast. Eventually, the motorhome became stuck in the gravel and sand.”
Once they knew they were stuck, the couple decided to just sleep in the RV and go for help in the morning. Then on the morning of Monday, March 28, they unhooked the Kia Soul they were towing and began driving to get help. Beverly Barker said they took a wrong turn and quickly became stuck. That’s where they would spend the next week.
Beverly Barker told her family she and her husband remained in relatively good spirits, reading the Bible they had with them, watching planes fly overhead, marveling at the clear night sky, and melting snow for water. Eventually, Ronnie Barker began having breathing problems, according to his wife, and she was left to provide water.
Beverly Barker said she would balance against her walker and use an N-95 face mask to scoop snow to bring back to her husband. The pair were also taking turns honking the horn in an SOS pattern.
“Ronnie blamed himself for getting them into the situation, but I do not think that there was any blame for him to shoulder,” Peters wrote. “Eventually peace came upon the both of them and Ronnie Barker passed away at 3:12 p.m. on Monday, April 4.”
Beverly Barker said she remained in the car with her husband for the next day and a half until they were found Tuesday afternoon.
Travis Parker also released a statement on behalf of the family:
“The family of Ronnie and Beverly Barker wish to thank those who participated in the search and rescue operations to locate our beloved family members. The outpouring of support was nothing short of incredible by the members of the local community. Our hearts are full because of the efforts that were put forth to help us bring Ron and Bev back home again to Indiana.
While the loss of Ronnie Barker is tragic, we are grateful that Beverly was found alive and can now begin her recovery from this tragic ordeal. We are grateful that Beverly will be able to fill in the blanks and give us the answers that we all so desperately seek.
Ronnie Barker loved his family and loved his country. He served our nation proud over his 26 year career in the United States Air Force. Ronnie was a believer in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He was proud of his faith and was always willing to give to others. He was funny, witty, and was the spark of energy that everyone gravitated toward. People just loved and wanted to be around Ron Barker.
Our family grieves over this news, and we question the roadblocks that seemed to stifle the search from the moment we were made aware of their disappearance. It’s our hope that Ronnie Barker’s legacy will be changing policy that will allow for a more expeditious approach to locating missing persons of all ages for both non-residents and residents of the state of Nevada. We call upon the citizens of Nevada to stand up and demand that changes be made at ALL levels of Public Safety to avoid the hurdles that our family faced as we attempted to bring resources into the search of our loved ones.
Fly high MSgt Ronnie E. Barker, you served us all well.
Ronnie Ercel Barker 11/21/1949 – 4/4/2022″
The Associated Press contributed to this report.