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Snowmobilers get lost, crash, prompting DCSO rescue

Deschutes County sheriff's search and rescue SAR logo
Deschutes County Sheriff's Search and Rescue

Wash. couple missed turnoff on return from Elk Lake to Kapka Butte

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A Washington state couple out for a snowmobile trip to Elk Lake got separated from others Thursday, crashed and got stuck, prompting a call-out of Deschutes County Sheriff's Search and Rescue members, who found the pair early Friday.

Shortly before 8 p.m., 911 dispatchers took a call about two lost snowmobile riders out of Kapka Butte Sno-Park, according to Lt. Bryan Husband, SAR coordinator.

The caller said Mark Michalik, 51, of La Center, Wash., and wife Kathy, 60, had ridden from the sno-park to Elk Lake Lodge but became separated from their party on the return trip, Husband said.

The couple had last been seen on Trail 5, near the Trail 6 junction, around 4 p.m. Thursday. Husband said weather conditions included heavy rain, sleet and winds gusting past 40 mph.

The Michaliks were riding a "two-up" snowmobile together and reportedly were inexperienced snowmobile riders, the lieutenant said.

The couple were not equipped for the stormy conditions and had no extra clothing, light source other than their snowmobile, as well as no shovel, avalanche beacon or probe and no shelter to stay out overnight, Husband said.

They had little water, no food and were not carrying any map source, paper or digital. They also had not brought their cellphones.

The other riders in their group had been out searching for the couple on their snowmobiles, without success, Husband said.

Based on that information, two sheriff's deputies and 11 DCSO SAR volunteers responded to plan and execute a coordinated search for the couple.

Around 1:15 a.m. Friday, a SAR snowmobile team found the couple near the Trail 132 junction, about two miles south of Wanoga Sno-Park, Husband said.

The couple said they had missed the turnoff to Kapka on their return trip and had ridden around on unknown trails, searching for the sno-park.

While searching, they inadvertently crashed their snowmobile and became stuck, unable to dig it out. The snowmobile reportedly rolled over on top of them in the crash, leaving them trapped beneath it until they were able to work themselves free, Husband said.

The couple then hiked to the intersection where they were eventually found. The Michaliks were trated for cold exposure but were otherwise unhurt. They were given a ride by SAR volunteers back to Kapka Butte Sno-Park, where they were reunited with their family and declined further medical aid.

"The Deschutes County Sheriff's Office would like to remind those considering a backcountry trip to plan ahead and for the unexpected," Husband wrote in a news release.

"Winter weather patterns change very quickly and unexpected storms can result in whiteout conditions, making it extremely difficult to navigate. It is encouraged to recreate/travel in a group, but plan on the possibility of being separated from your group, needing to self rescue.

"We strongly recommend carrying the "10 Essentials" when recreating in the backcountry. Avalanches occur routinely in the backcountry and those operating snowmobiles or snowbikes, in addition to the "10 Essentials," should carry a shovel, avalanche beacon and avalanche probe. Cold weather temperatures deplete the battery of your electronic devices faster, so extra batteries or charging devices are very helpful."

Article Topic Follows: Accidents and Crashes
search and rescue

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