Surviving Against The Odds: Paraplegic Woman Stranded in the Desert

RENO, NV - Stranded. Lost in the Nevada desert for three days. Sweltering heat, limited supplies, and no way to call for help. A Reno woman is lucky to be alive after suffering through a harrowing ordeal.

Surviving in the heat of the desert is difficult enough when you're well prepared, but Ricci Kilgore wasn't. She got lost Sunday night somewhere between Battle Mountain and Elko. It took everything she had to stay alive.

Her ordeal started the day before, on Saturday, July 12, 2014. Ricci was performing a fire dance near Austin, NV, with her group Controlled Burn.

"It's a performance group that dances with fire, choreographed. All sorts of talent. Everybody has their own rhythms," said Kilgore a week later, reflecting on the last few days.

Fire is special to Ricci. She's developed a relationship with it over the last 15 years of dancing, though, she never knew it would one day save her life.

"I was on a dirt road, went through a lot of ranch land... the actual roads were in great condition," said Ricci.

With the festival over, Ricci was headed north to Lewiston, Idaho. She was to meet her boyfriend but was taking a short cut.

"So I was like, maybe I will go back to see if there was another road. So as I was backing up. There was more of a steep grade," said Ricci.

Her truck slipped into a dry ravine. She was stranded.

"I had to sit there and think of a plan of what I had," said Ricci.

Before we get too far into this story, a trip back in time.

It was March of 2000. Ricci Kilgore was track star. A pole vaulter with plans of going to the Sydney Olympics, but that didn't quite work out.

"We rolled between 7-10 times. All the windows were smashed in, the roof of the car was smashed in."

A horrible car crash on a cold Idaho road left Ricci forever changed.

"(The doctor) was like you know Ricci, unfortunately, you are going to be wheelchair-bound and that you'll never walk again," said Ricci.

Her Olympic dreams were smashed. She was paralyzed from the waist down. Ricci only got through it with hope. Hope that kept her alive again this week.

Back to the desert, Ricci is still stranded. She can only walk with crutches. She's in rough terrain and only has limited supplies.

"Was there a point where you thought you were going to die. Yeah... the coyotes. I was so weak on cold and just had visions of them coming up behind me and just attacking my back first," said Kilgore.

Ricci knew help was not coming. In hopes of going to find help herself, she started to pack a backpack. She took wire cutters, which helped her get through fences. A lighter and WD-40 worked as a makeshift flame thrower she used at one point to fight off a cougar that saw her as dinner. She also packed kerosene, which she normally used for fire dancing. This time, the fuel ultimately saved her life.

It was a desperate attempt but she decided to start a wildfire. An electrician named Roger, from the nearby Hollister mine, spotted her signal fire. Ricci was saved.

"He is my hero. Haha. He is definitely my hero," said Ricci.

After rescue, Ricci went to a hospital in Winnemucca for a while, then to Renown. She only returned home in the last few days. She is recovering and says she'll adventure again, but never alone.


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