Two of three snowmobilers found

Third man, from Kremmling, presumed dead


— Two of the three snowmobilers missing north of Silverthorne were found alive late Tuesday after an intensive all-day search involving a National Guard Blackhawk helicopter and 35 rescuers.

Greg Morris, of Florida, and Murry Melloni, of Littleton, were found two miles from Elliot Ridge on the west side of Eagle County. In their statement to the Summit County Sheriff's Office, they confirmed the third member of their party, John McKibben, of Kremmling, died sometime Monday night.

The search and rescue mission has been suspended until this morning, when efforts will resume to find McKibben's body.

McKibben, a longtime Kremmling resident and self-employed concrete contractor, had separated himself from the group, according to authorities. McKibben also had two sons and a brother who live in Grand County.

The Blackhawk helicopter that joined the search party spotted a campfire on its way back to its base in Eagle, and landed close enough to the campfire to allow the crew to snowshoe to the site and recover Morris and Melloni.

A spokesperson at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs confirmed the two men were transported there by helicopter.

According to Paulette Horr of the Summit County Sheriff's Office, the rescued men were in better condition than anticipated and suffered only from mild exposure.

"They were very disoriented from the cold and the storm, but one of them was able to tell us they were with McKibben when he died," Horr said. "They couldn't tell us where exactly they had lost him without looking at a map, so depending on what information we can get, we are not sure when recovery efforts will begin (today)."

The three men went out on snowmobiles for a day trip Sunday, and when they did not return that evening, the brother of one of the missing men contacted the authorities. Due to extreme weather conditions Monday, which made visibility nearly impossible, rescue efforts were unable to begin until Tuesday morning.

Rescuers communicated with some of the men through text messages, which according to the Sheriff's Office indicated the men were in dire need of help. One message received Tuesday morning indicated Morris and Melloni were still together and could hear snowmobiles in the area.

Authorities said the discovery of the survivors was the result of the text messages they received, an abandoned snowmobile they found, and the riding history of one of the snowmobilers.

According to authorities, weather conditions and avalanche danger in the area remained extreme, and the best way to evacuate the men from the area was by helicopter. Temperatures were well below freezing Monday night, with winds nearing 50 mph in the area.

Last night, an additional 30 to 35 rescuers joined the rescue, relieving those who spent the entire day searching the area. Aid from surrounding counties, including Routt County, was called in to assist the search.


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