Search Leads to Positive Outcome
Sheriff Cites Communication, Coordination for Success
March 13, 2019
It was close to midnight Sunday, March 10, when Sheriff Tom Boyer received a call concerning two snowmobilers stranded near the Canadian border. According to the Sheriff, the father of one of the stranded men had called to tell him that they had become stranded and needed assistance.
Boyer said he reached out to Josh Thompson with Valley County Search and Rescue and they put a crew together consisting of Rocky Thompson, Randy Isaakson and Bryce Lawrence to go look for the two men. The crew made their way to a ranch in northeast Phillips County and met up with Philips County Sheriff Jerry Lytle and Deputy Seth Sanguins.
The group of rescuers arrived at the ranch the two outdoorsmen had left from and found that one of the men had returned safely, but had then decided to go back and collect the other lost man. It was unclear from the Sheriff’s account why the men had split up and not returned together.
Search and rescue crews then set out following the tracks of the man who had returned, but after four miles or so the party lost the tracks and returned to the ranch. Once the crew returned they found the man, who had already returned once, had returned again. According to his account, he had found a helmet and a piece of the broken sled but no sign of the other rider. The man stated he returned before finding the other rider because he was too cold to continue.
Search and rescue crews went back out to search for the missing snowmobiler and continued until sunrise when a new plan was developed. After attempting to coordinate getting aircraft support from Phillips County but failing due to heavy fog in Malta, Sheriff Boyer put in a call to Valley County Search and Rescue member Russell Leader to get a plane in the air. While that coordination was underway, the missing man was able to call his wife and she notified 911.
Dispatch then tried to get the man to call them directly so they could get his GPS coordinates, but when the man called 911 he was routed to Canada. The Canadian authorities then notified Valley County and provided a latitude and longitude coordinate for the missing person. Now in the air, Leader and Boyer flew to the provided location and found the man at around 9:30 a.m.
The search and rescue teams on the ground were then guided in and returned the man to the ranch around 10 a.m. and Phillips County transported him to the hospital in Malta. An ambulance had been summoned but it was still a few miles out when they had arrived back at the ranch.
Boyer said the key takeaways, for him, that made the event successful were the coordination with Phillips County; the quick response by search and rescue; the ability to get an aircraft on scene; and the ability of dispatch to communicate, ask the right questions and pass that information on effectively to the ground.
“It was great that our ability to coordinate and work together efficiently, communicate and dispatches’ ability to ask the right questions and get the information allowed this to come to a positive solution,” said Boyer.