Lost Snowmobiler’s Rescued
Released by: Dep Jim Whitcomb Assistant SAR Coordinator
Release Date: 01/26/2019
Location: Bend Watershed
Reporting Person: Elliff, Jenny Bend, OR
Rescued: Elliff, Seth 40 yom Bend, OR
Druckrey, Zachary 42 yom Bend, OR
On 01/25/2019, at about 2227 hours, Deschutes County 911 received a call from Jenny Elliff, advising her husband, Seth, and his friend Zachary, left Kapka Butte Snow park to go snowmobiling at about 1400 hours this date and were due back by 1800 hours. Jenny had not been able to call either snowmobiler as both cell phones were going straight to voicemail. In the meantime three friends had been searching on snowmobiles in the area for three hours without success.
At about 2241 hours, the on call Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Deputy was notified, who with the assistance of DCSOSAR volunteers began to plan a subsequent search .
At about 2300 hours Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office patrol deputies located the missing snowmobiler’s vehicles still parked in the Kapka Butte parking lot. Attempts were made to ping both missing snowmobiler’s phones with little success in the ping’s accuracy. Continued attempts to call their cell phones resulted in going straight to voicemail. The parking lots of Mt Bachelor, Edison, Dutchman, Swampy, Wanoga and the ODOT yard west were checked to ensure the snowmobiler’s had not arrived at either one of these locations.
At about 0120 hours, a friend who also works for Central Oregon Adventures, searched snowmobile trails 2, 6, 7 and 8 without success in locating the missing snowmobilers.
It was learned the snowmobile trails had been groomed overnight in the area and the groomer had not seen any sign of the two missing snowmobilers.
At about 0300 hours, two DCSOSAR snowmobilers were deployed to search the trails and meadows in an area south of Wanoga where it had been common for Seth and Zachary to ride. This snowmobile team was not successful in locating any sign of Seth or Zachary.
The Air Force Rescue Coordination Center was contacted to better assist in determining the location of the missing snowmobiler’s using cell phone forensics. The information received placed the most probable location of the missing snowmobiler’s in the Bend Watershed area east of Tumalo Mountain with the latest cell phone activity being just after 1753 hours on 01/25/2019. This information was received at about 0448 hours.
At about 0615 hours, 18 DCSOSAR volunteers deployed to the area using snowmobile trail #6 via snowmobiles and a tracked side by side. Two snowmobile teams, a ski team and two snowshoe teams were used to search for Seth and Zachary in the watershed.
At about 0740 hours Zachary was able to call 911 after a couple of earlier broken cell phone calls. Dispatch was able to provide coordinates that were within a half mile accuracy which helped confirm the prior cell phone forensics from the AFRCC.
Airlink was requested and responded to the area of the latest coordinates at about 0814 hours being assisted by two DCSOSAR volunteers on board to further assist with navigating and observing. While conducting a grid search of the area, one of the missing snowmobilers was located from the air at about 0905. The coordinates of the first subject were provided to the SAR teams on the ground, one of which located Seth at about 1016 hours. A second SAR team located Zachary approximately 400 yards SW of Seth at about 1029 hours. Seth and Zachary were found in good condition, not in need of medical attention. The DCSOSAR ground teams guided Seth and Zachary back to trail #6 arriving at about 1245 hours where a tracked side by side was waiting to transport them back to Kapka Butte Snow Park.
It was learned they had been able to make a small warming fire, had brought food, water, map and shovel. They had placed one of their cell phones in airplane mode to help conserve the battery. Seth and Zachary had been traversing along trail #6 and had inadvertainly traveled downhill into the watershed terrian. At about 1800 hours the night prior, they realized they were lost and did not know which direction to go or how to ride out of their location.
USFS Law Enforcement Officer’s were standing by at Kapka Butte to speak with Seth and Zachary and made arrangements to assist with the removal of their snowmobiles the following day.
The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office is a full service agency providing patrol, criminal investigations, jail operations, civil and search and rescue. Special operations include SWAT, Marine Patrol, ATV Patrol, Forest Patrol, along with four K9 units. Founded in 1916 and today lead by your duly elected Sheriff L. Shane Nelson, the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office serves the nearly 190,000 residents in Deschutes County. The agency has 230 authorized and funded personnel, which includes 187 sworn employees who provide services to the 3,055 square miles of Deschutes County.
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