by Patricia Swan Smith
For the Pathfinder
January 7, 1999
A Search & Rescue call last week for stuck snowmobilers left Search and Rescue and Seeley Lake Quick Response Unit member Joe Anders with a broken hip. Anders' snowmobile went over a hard drift, he went up into the air and when he came back down on the machine, it blew out the back of the hip socket. He underwent surgery two days after the accident, and he'll remain on crutches for at least 12 weeks.
The call came in as four snowmobilers stuck just west of Black Mountain in the Gold Creek area, according to Deputy Sheriff Bob Parcell. He said one of the men, who has had a series of heart problems, started feeling sick and was having breathing difficulties. They used a cell phone to call for help. The cell phone reached Granite County 911, and it was then dispatched to Missoula.
Parcell said that Life Flight was dispatched, but because of the storm moving in and very little daylight left, they were not sure Life Flight would be able to make it in. Two Search and Rescue squads were dispatched. One squad left up Gold Creek out of Missoula and the Seeley Lake Squad headed up Fawn Creek.
Life Flight touched down and the crew walked about a mile to the patient. They made another landing pad. Parcell said that the helicopter landed, loaded the patient and took off just as a blizzard hit.
Meanwhile, Anders was injured prior to reaching the snowmobilers. He was transported to Saint Patricks Hospital in the Seeley Ambulance.
According to Search & Rescue Coordinator Dave Ball, there are a lot of safety things that are obvious, but people don't stop long enough to look at the consequences.
"People are getting killed; the machines they are building now will take people into places that are dangerous, and they can't get out," Ball said. "This is the main reason the Federal Government is looking at closing some of the areas. There are a lot of areas that can be dangerous. It takes a lot of deaths to make people realize they are mortal and that they need to be careful with these new machines."
Ball also said that while many people believe that snowmobilers get "caught" in avalanches, many times it is the snowmobiles that cause the avalanches.
"The weight of a snowmobile will cause an avalanche during unstable conditions" he said.
And when snowmobilers are caught in an avalanche or get into places they can't get out of, the Search & Rescue teams are called.
The Missoula Search & Rescue started in 1959. The initial group was in Missoula, and now there are three squads. One is in Seeley.
Last year at the Missoula County Sheriff's Christmas Party, three Seeley Lake members received Life Saving Ribbon awards.
Bob Parcell and Wade Herbert received ribbons after they rescued a man in his twenties in November of 1997, who had been hunting between Kraft Creek Road and Bunyan Lake in a place called the Glacier Sloughs.
"It's a big drainage that runs south-west to the north-east, and it's really boggy," Parcell said. "People get hung up down in the bottom and keep traveling the wrong way."
The hunter had started off with his brother. There was deep snow, sometimes up to the mid-thigh, and freezing rain. The man kept walking toward the Missions.
"He'd head up a ridge, and we'd think 'all right he's heading in the right direction,' and then the tracks would drop back down into the bog again. He went up and down, up and down. We were getting pretty beat when we finally found him. He only had a sweat shirt on, and he was soaked to the bone and sleeping by a tree."
He had hypothermia, but they did get him out in time.
The other ribbon went to Pat Caffrey after he rescued a diabetic who had not returned from hunting and did not have any medications with him. He was lost in November of 1998, again the place was the Glacier Sloughs.
Parcell said that the man walked in the wrong direction, and when he was exhausted he went to sleep; the man told rescuers that he had started to dream he was in his home in bed.
The Search & Rescue members fired a shot into the air hoping that the lost hunter would return a shot. One shot was returned. Later the search party found out that the man was so weak he was barely able to load his gun to answer the shot.
Caffrey thought he knew the direction the shot had come from. He was right. When Caffrey found the man he walked him out to a trail where he was loaded onto a 4-wheeler and taken out.
Parcell said that Curt Friede from Kurt's Polaris provides the Search & Rescue crews with 4-wheelers, motorcycles or snow machines when they are needed. Friede is also a member of the Seeley Lake squad.
The Seeley squad includes Deputy Bob Parcell, Deputy Scott Newell, Joe Anders, John Anders, Curt Friede, Hank Sommerdyke, Gerry Connell, Pat Caffrey, Randy Teague, Bart Peterson, James Weatherly and Wade Herbert.
Both Ball and Parcell said that snowmobiling can be a lot of fun and good entertainment, but that people need to realize that the newer machines can take them places that are dangerous.
"Go out and have fun," Parcell said. "Just make sure you understand and think about the hazards."