Rescuers recount search for missing snowmobilers on Buffalo Pass
January 24, 2012
Steamboat Springs — Jackson County Search and Rescue on Tuesday morning identified the snowmobiler killed by an avalanche on Buffalo Pass during the weekend as 24-year-old Tyler Lundstedt, of Fort Collins. His younger brother, Jordan Lundstedt, 21, survived the avalanche and was rescued after an extensive search that had helicopters and search and rescue teams from Jackson, Routt and Grand counties scour dangerous and avalanche-prone terrain for two days to find the men.
The survivor, Jordan Lundstedt, partially was buried in the avalanche Saturday night or Sunday morning and was unable to reach his brother Tyler Lundstedt before he died. The slide occurred in the Chedsey Creek drainage on the Walden side of Buffalo Pass in Jackson County.
Scott Toepfer, of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, confirmed in a Web post Tuesday morning that Tyler Lundstedt was wearing an avalanche beacon when he was buried by the snow slide.
"The accident near Buffalo Pass occurred on a north aspect below tree line as two people on foot worked their way toward a lower elevation," Toepfer wrote. "The buried individual was found with a beacon search, but the survivor was unable to make a successful rescue."
Mark White, a spokesman for Jackson County Search and Rescue, said it took Jordan Lundstedt "quite a bit of time" to free himself from the avalanche. The survivor then used a beacon to locate his brother and reportedly dug through 5 feet of snow to reach him. Tyler Lundstedt already was unresponsive when his surviving brother reached him, rescuers said.
Tyler Lundstedt's body was recovered by search teams at about 9 p.m. Monday, a few hours after Garry Lundstedt, the father of the missing men, found Jordan Lundstedt alive in a snow cave with the help of a Colorado Army National Guard helicopter crew that was flying over the area. Jordan Lundstedt was flown by helicopter to Western States Burn Center at North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley on Monday night to be assessed for possible frostbite, according to a hospital spokesman. The survivor was listed in good condition at the hospital at noon Tuesday.
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White said that Jordan Lundstedt was ambulatory when he was found but that rescuers suspected he was dehydrated and prone to frostbite.
White said Jordan Lundstedt was "fairly well prepared" to survive after the avalanche but lost much of his gear during the slide. He stayed warm with an emergency blanket in a snow cave, White said.
The brothers had been missing since Saturday night, and Jordan Lundstedt told rescuers that he and his brother were caught in an avalanche late Saturday or early Sunday while on foot. The men had gotten stuck snowmobiling, and rescuers think they were trying to walk back to the Grizzly Creek campsite.
A treacherous search
White called the two-day search for the brothers one of the most extensive ever conducted in Jackson County.
"I believe the Jackson, Routt and Grand county search and rescue teams did an exemplary job," White said. "I'd be willing to put them up against any search and rescue team in the country for what they did the last couple of days."
He said the operation, which had as many as 40 rescuers working at a time, was conducted in treacherous terrain. The searchers used skis, snowshoes, snowmobiles and snowcats for much of the search.
"There was an extreme avalanche danger in the area," White said. "The place where (Jordan Lundstedt) was located took many hours for search and rescue folks using the best equipment possible to reach."
He added that a helicopter pilot who saw the avalanche site where Tyler Lundstedt was killed reported that the slide was large and had knocked over trees. The pilot also spotted several other avalanches in the area.
On Tuesday, friends and family of the Lundstedts described the brothers as avid outdoorsmen who loved to spend time and recreate together. Garry Lundstedt owns and runs an automotive repair shop in Fort Collins with his family.
Snowmobiling long has been a passion for the brothers, one of their friends reported Monday.
The Lundstedts were members of a larger party of snowmobilers from Fort Collins, two of whom had called for help at about 6 p.m. Saturday after they found themselves stuck near the Grizzly Creek campsite. Routt County Search and Rescue members said they made contact with everyone in the party except for the two brothers Saturday night. Search and Rescue team member Darrel Levingston said searchers were told by others in the party that the Lundstedts reported they were safe and that they would be picked up that night. A search for the brothers was not launched until about noon Sunday, when Jordan Lundstedt called 911 to report they were caught in an avalanche. A 14-member Routt County Search and Rescue team searched extensively for the men Sunday on skis, snowmobiles and snowshoes. The search was suspended because of darkness Sunday night and started again at 5 a.m. Monday.
Kristia Check-Hill, who led a nine-member search team from Routt County on Monday to help find the men, said a positive attitude, focus and a reiteration of safety brought the mission to its conclusion.
"Unfortunately, we had someone not make it, but our feeling is you always go in there hoping to get everyone out safely and alive," she said. "At the same time, we were able to give closure to the family by bringing out the subject who did not make it."
She added that the snow conditions made it hard to snowmobile, ski or snowshoe in the rescue area.
"We did what we were asked to do in a situation that wasn't great," she said. "I was proud of the people we had out there."
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com