Fourteen-year-old snowboarder Jeff Thornton, who survived six days lost and dazed in the San Gabriel Mountains of Southern California, ate his first meal in nearly a week Saturday as doctors reported that his condition has improved.
“His vital signs are stable,” said Jean Palmer, spokeswoman for Foothill Presbyterian Hospital in Glendora. “He is in good spirits, and he has enjoyed his first meal.”
Palmer would not comment on Thornton’s frostbite, which doctors said Friday night caused “a lot of pain” to the boy’s hands and feet.
Saturday morning, Thornton’s family stood by the intensive care unit where the boy remained. They issued a statement thanking search and rescue teams who scoured the rugged terrain for a week.
They singled out Randy Katai and Art Fortini of the Sierra Madre Search and Rescue squad, who found Thornton after following tracks for about an hour on Friday.
“We are overjoyed that Jeff is safe and back with his family,” the statement said. “The commitment of everyone involved is a reaffirmation of all that is good in human beings.
“Jeff’s job now is to regain his strength, and he is in excellent care to do just that. Our job is to get on with the business of being a family,” the statement said.
Rescuers found Thornton earlier Friday in an isolated canyon near Wrightwood, two miles below the New Mountain High ski resort. He was found sitting next to a creek wearing no gloves and a mud-caked wool sock on his left foot.
Doctors said Thornton’s youth and 215-pound build may have contributed to his survival.
Thornton suffered no neurological damage from hypothermia and his core body temperature was a surprisingly high 93 degrees, doctors said.