On Friday, December 6, 2013, at 1:28 PM, the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office received a report from a woman in Washington who was concerned about the welfare of her 29-year-old son, who she believed to be camping and skiing in the Bozeman area. She had not heard from him since November 27th. A Deputy Search and Rescue Coordinator from the Sheriff’s Office began making contacts and trying to gather any additional information. Aside from multiple locations in Gallatin and Madison Counties that he was said to frequent, the only substantial lead was a possible previous sighting of a vehicle and tent matching the description of those used by the missing subject. This was in the area of the South Fork Brackett Creek Road in the Bridger Mountains. Due to very limited information about search areas, along with concern over extremely cold temperatures, contact was made with the media in hopes of gaining information from the public.
At approximately 5:00 PM, twelve volunteers with Sheriff’s Search and Rescue were activated for a backcountry search of this area. Six searchers were deployed to the field with snowmobiles and a tracked ATV. They searched the high probability areas without finding signs of the subject. As searchers were regrouping to plan for further action, dispatch received calls from several citizens who had reportedly seen the subject earlier in the day at Bridger Bowl. A deputy sheriff responded to Bridger Bowl, and spotted the subject leaving in his vehicle at about 8:20 PM. It was learned that the man had parked at Bridger Bowl, notified several people of his plans, and then went camping and backcountry skiing from there. It appeared he had been properly equipped for conditions, and took measures to stay warm when the temperatures became frigid, including getting a fire started in difficult conditions. He was not in need of assistance, and was headed back into Bozeman.
Though in this case it turned out that the missing party did not need help, Sheriff Gootkin reminds outdoor recreationists that in addition to being physically prepared for adverse conditions, communication is also important and can lower the potential for “false alarms” and unnecessary deployment of emergency personnel. Sheriff Gootkin extends his thanks to the alert members of the public who responded to the media request for information, leading to a quick resolution to this search.