Thursday, January 18, 2001
Steamboat Springs Routt County Search and Rescue will be getting some much-appreciated help from a new helicopter service stationed at Steamboat Springs Airport if the City Council offers them a contract Feb. 6.
"It is a really good resource for us," said John MacArthur, the president of search and rescue.
The helicopter, owned by search and rescue member John Witte, has already proven itself indispensable in a rescue mission this week.
The helicopter, piloted by Witte, swung through the clear, early morning air Monday in southern Wyoming looking for signs of a lost party of snowmobilers who had left Steamboat Lake Outfitters almost 20 hours before. The snowmobilers had paid for a four-hour tour.
At about 10 a.m., Witte spotted an abandoned snowmobile near Hog Park Reservoir in Wyoming. From there, it wasn't long before the rescue team found the four people on the tour and their guide, Curt Saville. No one was injured, MacArthur said.
The tour left Steamboat Lake at about 2 p.m. Sunday, planning to make a loop up and over the Continental Divide, which took the snowmobilers into Wyoming. Confused by the windy and snowy conditions, the first-year guide followed a set of tracks that took him off course, said Chad Bedell, the manager of Steamboat Lake Outfitters. Saville was unavailable for comment.
After realizing his mistake, Saville attempted to turn back but found the trail was too steep, Bedell said.
The two-way radio that all of the guides carry was not working and Saville decided to continue on the course he was following, staying with the tracks, Bedell said. Eventually, the snowmobiles ran out of gas and the party settled down for the evening, making a fire to stay warm, Bedell said.
"We felt that he did a good job by remaining calm and acting practically," Bedell said. "He got a fire going and stayed in one spot so it would be easier for search and rescue."
At Steamboat Lake Outfitters, the other guides began to worry when they realized Saville hadn't returned.
A group of Steamboat Lake Outfitter guides scoured the area around the course until about 4 a.m. without any luck, Bedell said.
Early the next morning, the search and rescue team deployed the helicopter and a search team to try to find the lost snowmobilers.
Witte was at Steamboat Springs Airport by about 6 a.m., but could not open the door to his helicopter, said Airport Manager Matt Grow.
Grow raced to the airport and sprayed 180 degree de-icing spray on the door until it opened, he said.
Witte, flying in his helicopter, came upon the discarded snowmobiles with the help of another volunteer on the ground who found the group's tracks, MacArthur said.
"Everybody felt like the helicopter was a pretty valuable asset," Bedell said.