A father and son were rescued after being stranded for nearly eight hours in the wilderness after their truck rolled about 40 yards down a hill off a road near Big Piney in Sublette County.
The pair were driving on a two-track road on Bureau of Land Management land west of Big Piney on Monday after spending the day hunting in the area, the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office reports.
Around 7:30 p.m., their pickup drove off a steep hillside, rolling multiple times before landing in a congested aspen grove. The son, a juvenile, was injured in the crash.
The father could not immediately call for help because he misplaced his phone in the wreck, said Kenna Tanner, coordinator of Tip Top Search and Rescue. He was resourceful enough to build a fire to keep his injured son warm and spent the night providing whatever care he could.
“He knew (his son) was injured and wasn’t able to walk out of there,” Tanner told Cowboy State Daily. “So, he chose to stay where he was at. Then he tried to get his bearings and figure out where they were. He did a good job.”
Looking For A Signal
In the early morning hours Tuesday, the father found his phone and wandered until he got enough signal to contact Sublette County dispatch, successfully connecting with a dispatch operator around 3 a.m., according to the sheriff’s office.
The father informed the operator his son was hurt and needed medical attention. He could not provide an exact location and had difficulty describing where they were since the two-track road they were traveling on wasn't marked and it was still dark.
Dispatch operators successfully obtained his coordinates by pinging his cellphone. Sublette County Fire, Sublette County EMS, the sheriff’s office, Tip Top Search and Rescue and Air Idaho immediately mobilized and started heading toward the location of the crash.
Reaching the victims was challenging, said Sublette County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Travis Bignham. In addition to navigating the wilderness at night, first responders had to figure out which two-track road would lead to the scene of the wreck since none of the roads in the area were marked.
Without seeing the scene or knowing the exact situation, the responding agencies were experienced enough to know a medical helicopter would be needed.
“It took multiple agencies to coordinate the response,” Bingham told Cowboy State Daily. “But our search and rescue and our office know the county well. They knew where they were and what they would need. Deputies on the scene were able to tell them more once they got there.”
Once first responders successfully located the wreck and made contact with the victims, “major physical efforts” were required to evacuate the injured juvenile, he said. An Air Idaho medical helicopter was summoned to the scene.
Then 11 responders climbed down to the wreck to secure the boy in a litter while another eight responders waited on the road above, ready to raise the litter up the 40-yard embankment where the helicopter landed.
Tanner said she was at the scene, coordinating the rope rescue from the road.
The injured boy was loaded onto the medical helicopter and evacuated to a hospital in Idaho Falls. His condition and the extent of his injuries have not been disclosed.
A Team Effort
The responders “wish him well as he begins his recovery and returns to hunting in our neck of the woods,” Tanner said in a press release about the Tuesday morning rescue.
Three hours elapsed between the initial call to Sublette County dispatch and the successful evacuation of the victims despite the remote location of the crash, she said. Interoperability between the responding agencies was “essential” for the rapid response and successful rescue of the victims, despite the logistical challenges of finding the right road to the scene in the dark.
“It was a team effort that made this work so fluently,” Tanner said. “It was pretty cool to see all of us come together like that. We were all pretty proud of ourselves.”
Bingham believes the response is an excellent testament to the professionalism and round-the-clock ready response of emergency personnel stationed in Sublette County.
“A large number of people were involved and able to mobilize quickly,” he said. “We’re lucky to have such a coordinated effort with all the (Sublette County) responders.”