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Accident

Teton County Search and Rescue Saves Eight Stranded Snowmobilers

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Eight snowmobilers were saved this week by Teton County Search and Rescue after becoming lost on Beartooth Pass.

According to the SAR team, it was contacted Thursday morning by Park County to do an aerial search for the group of snowmobilers that were reportedly lost on the pass.

The group hadn’t been seen or heard from since Wednesday and spent the night out in the elements.

Park County’s Search and Rescue team determined the group’s location, about six miles from the nearest trailhead, and requested a helicopter evacuation.

The aircraft loaded up two Teton County SAR volunteers and a ranger from Grand Teton National Park and flew to Cody to refuel. The team then flew to the site and successfully transported all eight snowmobilers to safety.

In the past few weeks, the team has responded to incidents in Fremont, Lincoln, and Park counties, as well as Grand Teton National Park. The team has been called out more this year than all of last season.

“We still have very motivated rescuers who are eager to help out in any way they can,” said Teton County Sheriff Matt Carr. “We have this amazing resource available and if another county needs it, we’re absolutely happy to help out.”

Since the beginning of the year, the team has been called out 31 times — responding to events including five fatalities, three involving avalanches. Of the 31 responses, 24 resulted in active missions, more than during the entire previous winter season.

Three people have died in avalanches in northwestern Wyoming since mid-February, two snowboarders and one snowmobiler.

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Lander Woman Provides Eyewitness Account of Togwotee Avalanche Rescue Mission

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Lander woman was having a normal day last week when she came across the search and rescue mission for the Togwotee avalanche that ultimately claimed the life of a Jackson snowboarder.

Kathi McKee and her husband were about 10 miles from Togwotee Pass and managed to catch much of the rescue on camera, through photos and video.

“We had parked here for the day and when we returned, the helicopter was flying overhead with a SAR person hanging from a rope with the patient bundled in an orange sleeping bag-type bundle,” McKee said.

Michael McKelvey, 31, a seasonal resident of Jackson, died after being caught in an avalanche Thursday near Wind River Lake near the top of Togwotee Pass.

Search and Rescue Chief Advisor Cody Lockhart said a group of snowboarders had built a substantial “kicker” to launch up toward a slope, and when McKelvey landed, it triggered the slide, which Lockhart described as having a 5-foot crown. 

McKelvey was totally buried, but was wearing a beacon and his companions were able to uncover him and begin life support efforts. 

Members of Teton County Search and Rescue were training on snowmobiles a short distance away and were on the scene within 10 to 15 minutes. 

McKee said Teton County Search and Rescue stopped traffic to allow the helicopter to circle and land, so McKelvey could be placed inside and flown to a hospital in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

“So professionally done. Amazing!” she said.

According to recreation website Teton Gravity Research, McKelvey had been an active member of the Jackson snowboarding community for years.

According to an Instagram post, McKelvey was buried under 12 feet of snow during the avalanche.

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Caught On Video: 18-Wheeler Blows Over On Highway 85 in Southeastern Wyoming

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Living in Wyoming, we all know the dangers of driving in high wind. Even low-profile vehicles can get blown off the road.

On Monday, however, it was one of those days were numerous vehicles fell victim to the February winds.

First it was the Amazon semi that nearly blew off a bridge south of Chugwater on I-25.

Later in the day, a wind gust toppled another 18-wheeler but this time on Wyoming Highway 85 which makes its way through Hawk Springs, Torrington, and Lingle.

But the difference in this wreck is that someone’s dashcam was on and recorded the incident.

“This was intense to watch and a complete fluke to have captured on film this afternoon,” Beth Wood said. “Driver is ok. Thank you to the good people, volunteer fire departments, and dispatch today!”

“PSA: Wyoming’s wind is NO joke! Use caution, people,” she said.

Wood told Cowboy State Daily that she set-up her dashcam so she could show her kids what ‘sleeping semis’ (a phrase describing turned-over 18-wheelers) look like.

“It was a complete fluke that I got behind the semi that blew over in the video, simply because I was trying to get other footage for the kids,” Wood said.

“Growing up in southeast Wyoming I’ve seen lots of ‘sleeping semi’s’ on the side of the road, but have never witnessed it with my own eyes. My heart was definitely doing double time!”

Wood said as soon as her car stopped, she got on the phone and called 911 while two other motorists ran to check on the driver.

“While on the phone with dispatch, I saw one of the good folks jump up on the tipped over cab and pop the drivers door open and talk to the driver,” Wood said.

“A few minutes later another fellow came and told me the driver was ok and that they’d got the windshield broke out so the driver could get out,” she said.

Once EMS showed up, Wood took off because she said there was nothing else she could do.

“I left because my fiancé is on the Hawk Springs V.F.D. and nothing is more frustrating than the “extra” people who get in the way simply because they are ‘lookie-loos’” she said.

What’s crazy about this accident is that the truck blew over at nearly the same spot as another did earlier in the day.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation said 60+mph crosswinds will make an “extreme blowover event” like again Monday evening and Tuesday.

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