Two Fatalities, Missing Man Makes Busy Weekend For Park County Search & Rescue

Emergency crews in Park County responded to a pair of unrelated fatal incidents Friday, then began an exhaustive search for a missing Montana man Saturday.

Leo Wolfson

July 18, 20233 min read

Vilkama response 2 7 18 23
(Courtesy Photo)

It was a rough day for search and rescue responders in Park County on Friday.

The Park County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday announced that search and rescue crews responded to two fatal incidents, one involving an ATV crash and the other a climber.

ATV Crash

Emergency responders first were called to a fatal ATV crash in the North Fork about 11 a.m. A 911 call reported an ATV crash in a field off the North Fork Highway causing serious injury. 

Authorities determined that Illinois resident Ian Vilkama, 21, had been ejected from his side-by-side ATV, which subsequently rolled over on his head and chest, killing him. He was not wearing a helmet.

Bystanders were able to remove the ATV off of Vilkama and start performing CPR immediately, according to the sheriff’s office. Once emergency crews arrived, they continued life-saving efforts, but were not able to resuscitate Vilkama. 

Park County Coroner Cody Gortmaker ruled the cause of death to be massive head trauma.

  • Ian Vilkama
    Ian Vilkama (Cowboy State Daily Staff)
  • Andrew Evans
    Andrew Evans (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Climbing Death

Later Friday, search and rescue responded to a climbing death in the area of the Gardiner Headwall off the Beartooth Highway.

Authorities received a call at about 2 p.m. for a stranded and injured climber.

The victim was identified as Red Lodge, Montana, resident Andrew Evans, 32, a member of Carbon County (Montana) Search and Rescue.

Multiple agencies from Wyoming and Montana were dispatched to reach Evans, who was about 400 feet from the headwall, a popular backcountry skiing and hiking destination.

Evans died before responders reached him.

Emergency crews attempted to locate a helicopter to transport Evans but were not able to find one. They ended up transporting him out by a rope and haul system. 

Gortmaker advised the cause of death was from blunt force head trauma.

John Borninkhof 7 18 23
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Still Missing

On Saturday morning, Park County Search and Rescue received a call for a 1988 brown Chevrolet Suburban that had been parked at Newton Lakes outside Cody for three days. 

Through investigation, it was determined that the vehicle belonged to Laurel, Montana, resident John Borninkhof, 54. The Laurel Police Department had issued a missing person bulletin for Borninkhof on July 12.

The report said Borninkhof may be suicidal and after an argument gave his personal belongings to his son, who was the last person to see him. 

Over the course of two days, 57 emergency responders used horses, a helicopter, electric bicycles and drones to search for Borninkhof but could not find him. The Park County Shooting Complex nearby also was closed to account for the safety of searchers.

“We are eternally grateful to the town of Cody WY, they have gone out of their way to provide every resource possible to this search,” family member Taynger Borninkhof posted on Facebook. “We need this man back, anything, anything at all is helpful.”

Anyone with information about Borninkhof should call the Laurel Police Department at 406-628-8737.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter