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Crook County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue searches through rain, fog and mud for overdue motorist in Ochocos

Crook County Sheriff's Office

As it turns out, three groups got stuck in mud, 2 motorists waited until daylight to walk to cell service

PRINEVILLE, Ore. (KTVZ) – Crook County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue volunteers were called out for an overdue motorist in the Ochocos Monday night, sparking a challenging eight-hour overnight mission that ended when two people whose vehicles got stuck in the mud walked to an area with cellphone coverage.

Crook County 911 was notified around 8 p.m. Monday of the overdue motorist, Deputy Andy Pearson said. A large possible location was given, from Big Summit Prairie to the area around Walton Lake. The overdue subject left home at 6 a.m. and was to have returned by noon. Cellphone calls went unanswered and family and friends had looked for the motorist all day, with no luck.

Nine SAR members responded and the search was managed from the Emergency Operations Center in Prineville, with radio and GPS communication. Five vehicles were deployed, including the agency’s tracked Ranger.

A ping of the motorist’s phone was sought, and a possible location was determined, off Forest Service Road 22, Pearson said. After volunteers searched the area in vehicles and on foot, it was learned the ping was not good, with no good location information to be gained from phone data.

“This left the very large area to be searched,” the deputy said in a news release Thursday. “The conditions were rainy, very muddy and at times very foggy.”

Search teams checked roads, working there way through a large area of the mountains, amid concern the motorist could be injured and in need of emergency aid. The search lasted until about 5 a.m., when the volunteers were pulled back due to fatigue.

A second search group was requested for Tuesday morning. While they were organizing to head out, officials learned another motorist was overdue in the same area.

While working on the new information, the two missing subjects walked out to cellphone coverage and “self-rescued,” Pearson said.

It was learned three groups had gotten stuck in the mud in the same area and waited out the weather and darkness until walking to an area with cell coverage, Pearson said.

"Crook County Search and Rescue spent eight hours in difficult conditions throughout the night looking for the first missing subject," Pearson added. "Please when going into the woods, have a plan, communicate your plan and stick with your plan." 

Article Topic Follows: Accidents and Crashes

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Barney Lerten

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