Stranded snowmobilers rescued near Freeman Reservoir

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— Three Moffat County teens were recovering Monday after spending Sunday night stranded in Routt National Forest north of Craig.

Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz said William Burke, 17, Mason Burke, 13, and Justin McAlexander, 17, were snowmobiling Sunday above Freeman Reservoir.

At about 6 p.m., McAlexander contacted his father to tell him the group had gotten stuck and was in need of assistance, Jantz said.

McAlexander’s father called the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office, which alerted Moffat County Search and Rescue.

At 8 p.m., search and rescue teams established a base of operations for the search and began looking for the stranded group.

Blizzard conditions from Sunday’s storm slowed the search, Jantz said.

Jantz said the teens set fire to one of the snowmobiles to keep warm throughout the night.

When fuel ran out, they attempted to make a fire using other sources of fuel, but blizzard conditions hampered those efforts.

At 7:46 a.m. Monday, searchers made contact with one of the stranded boys as he attempted to climb out of the ravine where the group was stranded.

Jantz said the remaining boys were stranded in a ravine so steep that searchers had to snowshoe to them rather than use snowmobiles.

At 10:06 a.m., the two remaining boys were moved out of the ravine, and at 11:40 a.m., they arrived at the base of operations. All of the boys were examined by emergency medical services crews, and the Burkes were transported to The Memorial Hospital, Jantz said.

Jennifer Riley, TMH chief of organizational excellence, said William and Mason Burke were admitted Monday to TMH. Mason Burke was treated and released Monday, and William Burke was listed in stable condition as of Tuesday afternoon, she said.

Despite getting stranded, Jantz praised the boys for making the best of a bad situation.

“They got stuck in an area that was difficult, but they made the right decision to stay with their machine, and I want to emphasize that,” the sheriff said.

“If they had tried to leave on foot, their tracks would have been covered by the blizzard conditions we had (Sunday) night, and we would have been no closer to finding them.”

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