Wife stranded in desert was prepared to die next to husband

(Stan Lim/The Press-Enterprise via AP)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A woman stranded in her car for two weeks in the Southern California desert in May said she forgave her husband for making a wrong turn and was prepared to die with him.

“I told him, `Honey, we all make mistakes. We all make wrong choices.’ That’s all that was,” Dianna Bedwell said Friday after the memorial service for Cecil “Paul” Knutson, who died a week into the ordeal. “We had 29 wonderful years together. If we make it out, fine. If we don’t make it out, fine.”

After Knutson, 79, died peacefully, he sent angels to rescue her, Bedwell, 68, said in her first public remarks about the tragedy, The Press Enterprise reported Saturday.

Off-roaders found her severely dehydrated May 24 on a dirt road near a Boy Scout camp some 65 miles northeast of San Diego. She was airlifted to a hospital.

The Fullerton couple, both retired school bus drivers, were heading from a casino to a son’s home near Palm Springs, California, for a Mother’s Day dinner when Knutson took a wrong turn. When he tried to turn around, the car got stuck on a rock.

When they didn’t arrive, their son, Robert Acosta, called for help. Searches on land and from the air failed to spot the white Hyundai Sonata because it was under trees in such a remote place.

The two, both diabetics, survived on rainwater, a butter cream pie and 8 pounds of oranges.

Knutson used a cane and walker to get around outside the car, but eventually neither of them could walk.

Knutson, a Marine land mine demolition expert in the Korean War, was sweet and kind in his final days and seemed to know when he was about to die.

“He just fell asleep,” Bedwell said. “I thank God for that. There was no pain, no anger.”

He was found outside the driver’s door. An autopsy found he died of a heart attack caused by narrowing of blood vessels.

Knutson was honored with a 21-gun salute and taps at Riverside National Cemetery, where an urn with his remains was buried.

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