The following is a summary of search and rescue activity conducted by Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office deputies assigned to Forest Patrol, along with volunteers from the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Response Team (YCSRT) and Jeep Posse.
December 30, 2010, 3:45 P.M. – The reporting party (RP) called YCSO and indicated his 62-year-old father, 10-year-old nephew and dog, had gone camping on December 28. They intended on camping through the New Year’s Holiday. The RP had just received a text from his father indicating the two were snowed in due to a 2 foot accumulation and were staying in their vehicle to keep warm. The pair was stranded in the Bradshaw Mountains, west of Mayer.
The next day, YCSRT Quad Units located the pair and were able to transport them out with assistance of the YCSRT 4 by 4 Unit. The man, his grandson and dog were in good condition and driven to the Mayer Sheriff’s Station to reunite with family – see photo. The 62-year-old rescue victim admitted to deputies his initial concern about snow accumulation he noticed upon arrival Thursday at the campsite. He opted to “stay and play” rather than leave. He had also heard weather forecasts for the area issued the prior week, but did not believe the storm would be as severe as the prediction.
January 1, 2011, 9:45 P.M. – YCSO dispatcher received an “On-Star” call regarding two people and their dog stranded in a vehicle 4 miles outside of Crown King on Senator Highway. As Forest Patrol deputies began coordinating rescue efforts, they were able to contact the stranded individuals and learned they were out of gas and no longer getting heat. Attempts to locate them that night were unsuccessful due to road conditions. Around 9 AM the next morning, a Jeep Posse crew found the stranded adults and transported them to safety – see photo.
January 1, 2011, 8:15 P.M. – YCSO received a report of 3 adults stranded on Forest Road 192 outside of Crown King. The caller had been able to hike out to the town of Crown King and request help. Another family member from the Phoenix area also called requesting a welfare check on the group who had left for Crown King that morning. YCSO personnel began their search effort the following morning with assistance of Jeep Posse members. Just before 11A.M., YCSO searchers learned that a Crown King resident was able to assist the stranded adults early in the morning and bring them to safety. None of those involved contacted YCSO until late in the day which tied up personnel in an unnecessary rescue operation.
January 2, 2011, 5:00 P.M. – YCSO received report of missing/overdue hiker in the vicinity of the Bell Rock Trail. This incident involved a female hiker in 30’s who decided to separate from a large group to hike on her own. They were all from out of state and not familiar with the area. DPS Ranger was requested for a flyover and the YCSRT Backcountry Team was activated. Just before 7 P.M., YCSO was notified the missing hiker had returned to the hotel on her own. She was interviewed and apologized for the unnecessary use of resources. She told deputies she had located other hikers who assisted her to safety.
Lessons learned –
Hopefully the lessons learned in these scenarios are obvious. In almost all cases, those requiring help were from outside Yavapai County and had come to this area to enjoy the scenery and snow. Most already had an understanding of the weather predictions before travelling, but decided to move forward with plans anyway. No one was prepared with proper supplies/equipment for the prevailing conditions and all were fortunate due to the efforts of YCSO, its volunteers, and other concerned citizens. In the case of the missing hiker, she violated a classic rule not to separate from a group in the wilderness. GPS enabled cell phones were of critical help in two of the rescues.
As always, YCSO suggests you consider weather conditions as part of your travel preparation. If you decide to move forward with your plans, remember to bring the necessary supplies to survive the elements should you be stranded. Let family/friends know your itinerary and expected return time.
The below link will take you to a Utah based U.S. Forest Service website which provides a comprehensive Winter Safety Guide.