(Park County, WY) – Park County, Wyoming authorities and the Cody Country Snowmobile Association were able to assist a group of snowmobilers last Thursday. Below is a release about the incident from the Park County Sheriff’s Office.
On Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 8:00 p.m., the Park County Sheriff’s Dispatch received a report of two overdue snowmobilers in the Beartooth Mountains east of the Top of the World Store.
Trevor Wayne Deal, age 22 of Bridger, Montana and Maison Deacon Ostwald, age 21 of Laurel, Montana began snowmobiling at 8:00 a.m. that morning and had contacted a friend at 5:00 p.m. to say that one of their sleds had become disabled but they were trying to get back to the highway on their own. No location was given.
Park County Search and Rescue (PCSAR) was activated and deployed to the area on snowmobiles. They were assisted by volunteer members of the Cody Country Snowmobile Association (CCSA) and volunteers from Snow Search.
They searched through the night eventually suspending operations at 4:00 a.m. At 7:00 a.m. on Friday, February 19, 2021, the search resumed. Additional searchers from the Wyoming Game and Fish, Shoshone National Forest, as well as many individual volunteers joined in the search which was being coordinated by PCSAR.
Air resources were summoned in the form of two Blackhawk helicopters: one from the Cheyenne Army Air National Guard and another from the Air Force Rescue Wing out of Malmstrom, Montana Air Force Base.
Additionally, the PCSAR fixed wing airplane joined in the search. At one time, over 50 volunteers on snowmobiles were mobilized in the search area.
At 4:00 p.m., a forensic trace on the victim’s last cell phone call which was requested earlier in the day by the Park County Homeland Security Director (PCHSD), indicated that the call was made in an area south, southwest of Fantan Lake. Searchers immediately began to comb that area during which they discovered the abandoned snowmobile belonging to Deal and Ostwald. Tracks from the sled indicated that the men went south over a steep incline after abandoning the sled.
However, given the terrain, weather conditions and nightfall approaching, it was decided to suspend the search and return to formulate a search plan for the following day. At 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 20, 2021, PCSAR once again deployed with all of their snow search equipment, along with all of the previous volunteers. Additionally, the PCHSD once again requested a helicopter from the Air Force Rescue Wing out of Malmstrom, Montana.
Once the helicopter, a Bell UH-1 Iroquois (Huey) arrived on the scene, two PCSAR members boarded for an aerial survey of the victim’s expected route based on the terrain and prior day’s indicators. From the air, they were able to pick up snowmobile tracks from the Deal and Ostwald’s second snow machine, headed down a steep draw towards the bottom of the mountain. Eventually, the snowmobile tracks became human tracks indicating that the men had abandoned their second machine.
At the same time, several members of the CCSA proceeded to the base of Table Mountain on snow machines to search that area.
After the aerial survey, the Huey landed east of the base of Table Mountain and dropped off the PCSAR members in order to return to Cody for fuel. As soon as the Huey departed the area, the ground teams heard Deal and Ostwald shouting for help from an area of spruce trees several hundred yards up the mountain. Snowmobilers’ immediately began the steep ascent, eventually reaching the victims. Both men appeared to be in relatively good shape. They were exhausted, dehydrated, and hypothermic.
They were brought down the mountain and evacuated via the Huey to a waiting ambulance from Cody Regional Hospital. Deal refused treatment while Ostwald was transported to the hospital and eventually flown to the Idaho Falls Burn Center for treatment of severe frostbite. In speaking with Deal, he related that they initially had gotten into a very steep area of heavy snow south of Fanton Lake and in trying to ascend, they rolled one of their snowmobiles.
Due to the deep snow and steep hillside, they could not get it upright and made the decision to abandon it. They then took their second machine over the edge of an incline and followed a steep creek drainage in an attempt to reach the bottom of the mountain. The first night on the mountain, they were able to start a fire using gasoline from the snowmobile which Deal ignited with a sparkplug wire.
They had no other way of starting a fire. They spent the night in a snow pit around the fire. Friday morning Deal and Ostwald resumed their descent during which they struck a buried boulder, breaking the steering linkage. This forced them to abandon their second machine and proceed on foot.
They spent Friday night without any means to build a fire, so they covered themselves with spruce branches. Upon waking up, they had no feeling in their lower extremities such that it took two hours to traverse 100 yards.
Deal commented that if not rescued in the next 4-5 hours, they both had resigned themselves that they were “going to curl up and die”. As they began getting these thoughts, that’s when they heard the Huey in its search pattern. When it left, that’s when they heard the snowmobiles below them and began shouting for help.
Sheriff Scott Steward once again praised not only the incredible selflessness of the rescuers but also recognized the interagency cooperation that resulted in the successful rescue of these two brave young men. “Most often search and rescue missions, similar to this one, do not have a positive outcome, so it was incredibly satisfying for our members to have such an emotionally rewarding end result. And this was in no small part due to the volunteers who stepped up in a time of need. All of us should be grateful for their unselfish giving attitude.”