(Gallatin County, Mont.) On Friday at 6:30 pm., the West Yellowstone Police Department received a 911 call reporting a missing/overdue snowmobiler. The 55-year old male from California became separated from his sons about two hours earlier off the South Plateau trail, 15 miles south of West Yellowstone. Cell Phone forensics indicated his last location was approximately 10 miles west of town.
Rescuers from the Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue West Yellowstone Division responded. With rescuers unsure of the missing snowmobiler’s location, teams were sent both south and west in an attempt to locate him. About 9:00 P.M. the rescue team south of town found the man 20 miles from town, down a very steep embankment, and in about 5 feet of snow. Rescuers navigated very tough terrain, poor visibility and deep snow to get to the him. He was uninjured and able to ride out on his own after the rescue team retrieved his buried and upside-down snowmobile. He said that he became separated from his sons, got turned around and lost and while trying to find his way back to town missed a hairpin corner. He went off a steep drop-off, and tumbled down the hill. He was unable to climb back up the steep hill and due to the pitch-black darkness, was unable to determine how to get to another part of the trail. His efforts were complicated by the deep snow. The West Yellowstone area received between 4 and 12 inches of new snow yesterday. He was convinced that he was going to have to try to survive the night out there. Deputy Sheriff Mike Gavigan
said last night, “Another success story for SAR at the end of the night. It is personally the most snow I have ever snowmobiled in, super tough conditions. The West Yellowstone team responded amazingly as I have come to expect.”
Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin would like to remind snowmobilers to know your limitations. A fun adventure into this amazing backcountry can quickly turn into an emergency. Always remember to ride with a partner, stay with your partner, carry a reliable means of communication and be prepared to survive the night if you should have to. #####