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Missing snowmobiler found west of Bend after extensive search

Had become separated from wife as they rode in Moon Mtn. area

(Update: Adding video, more details from snowmobiler on what he did)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A missing snowmobiler from Arizona who became separated from his wife while riding in the Moon Mountain area west of Bend was found in good condition Saturday morning after an extensive air and ground search, officials said.

Around 9:40 a.m., John Pieratt, 54, was able to get to a location and call Deschutes County 911 dispatchers, said sheriff's Lt. Bryan Husband, Sheriff's Search and Rescue coordinator.

Around the same time, a SAR snowmobile search team arrived at his location, in a meadow area in the upper city of Bend watershed, just south of snowmobile Trail 8 and east of Trail 6, Husband said.

Pieratt "is reported to be cold and tired, but otherwise in good condition," Husband said in an update. He was being brought by SAR snowmobile teams back to Kapka Butte Sno-Park and reunited with his family.

Judy Pieratt called 911 dispatchers just before 6 p.m. Friday to report that she and her husband had been riding snowmobiles on Trail 6, near Moon Mountain, and he was missing, Husband said.

Pieratt’s wife said he is an experienced snowmobiler, but unfamiliar with the area, and was wearing warm layers and had food and water, Husband said.

Moon Mountain is southeast of Broken Top and northeast of Todd Lake, about 17 miles west of Bend.

Pieratt was riding a black Ski-Doo Summit snowmobile and was described as a healthy white male, about 6 feet tall and 200 pounds. He last was seen wearing black snow pants, a bright green snow jacket, a bright green backpack, an unknown-color helmet and tennis shoes.

Two sheriff’s deputies and 11 SAR volunteers responded to assist in the search for Pieratt, Husband said. The volunteer teams included seven snowmobile team riders, two air operation team members and two incident management team members.

An AirLink air ambulance crew assisted in an aerial search for Pieratt, with two SAR air operations team members helping with navigation and observations, Husband said.

In addition, the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center was contacted and assisted with cellphone forensics, since Pieratt had a cellphone when he went missing, the lieutenant said.

SAR teams, AirLink and AFRCC searched into the night, covering all of the surrounding snowmobile trails in the area, also monitoring Pieratt’s cellphone for any assistance that might provide in narrowing down his current location.

Around 2 a.m. Saturday, SAR teams were recalled to the Bend SAR headquarters for searcher safety, and to wait for daylight and improved searching conditions, Husband said.

About five hours later, two deputies and 19 SAR volunteers resumed the search, including 10 snowmobile riders, two tracked Argo ATV operators, three air ops team members to work with AirLink in aerial searches, three incident management support members and one logistical support team member. AFRCC also continued to assist in the search.

With numerous snowmobilers and other winter recreators in the search area, anyone with information on Pieratt’s location had been urged to call dispatchers or 911.

Husband later told NewsChannel 21 deputies learned Pieratt, with limited survival skills, used branches as a makeshift blanket to stay warm during the night.

Pieratt also took off his wet shoes and socks, then used his gloves for shoes, the lieutenant said. And he turned his phone off when he still had half of the battery left, so it wouldn't run out overnight.

Husband said you should be extra careful when traveling into backcountry, especially in times when there could be extra demand on law enforcement resources.

"At this time, we would ask everybody that is going into the backcountry to enjoy that area to be conservative in their approach, enjoy the outdoors but stay within their means," he said.

Husband also said SAR has revised their procedures to deal with the novel coronavirus. For example, he said, someone calling dispatchers for rescue might be asked if they have any COVID-19 symptoms, like a fever.

Search and Rescue also is now practicing social distancing, he said, and using gloves and masks when in contact with people.

Accidents and Crashes / Central Oregon / News / Top Stories

Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.

Comments

21 Comments

  1. He should be cited I just canceled my pct hike.people don’t want outsiders draining their resource at this TIME!He needs to take his ass back to arizona!If he was in the watershed THIS IS DRINKING WATER! ******* outsiders

    1. Tourism is a vital part of our economy. Arizonians and their friends from around the world are always welcome to Bend! #Glad he was found #alive and all ended well 🙂 Thank you first responders!! 🙏🏼

      1. Spoken like a true californian There’s a national emergency and being stupid and not knowing he can use his phone as a gps and navigation device (just canceled my pct hike was using my phone for the entire 2700 miles)They can and should bill him for the whole operation!

        1. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Ask the many SAR volunteers what they think, and the experts in the field. Everything has tradeoffs, and if you bill a lot of people for rescue – and the bills stick in court, which is no guarantee – the odds are pretty good that many folks who get in such trouble will resist calling for help, get in deeper trouble and thus pose an even greater risk to the many volunteers who train for and want to do this challenging task.
          (I often say that feel-good knee-jerk “that oughta teach ’em” solutions backfire, because they often have tradeoffs and unintended consequences (which just bring more blame on govt. in “you didn’t do it right/that’s not what I meant” fashion…)

          1. Granted even if citations were issued, the chance of them being paid probably isn’t great, but you would also think that people would learn a lesson, and be more prepared next time and think about it before they trek into areas that they know nothing about…

            1. I would not think that. I think people who need that lesson taught already know it, and a big fat bill … well, thanks for the discussion, guess we’ll just disagree. I’m sure Lt. Husband and others would be glad to explain why bills wouldn’t end the problem.

              1. Fair enough. I’ve never really thought about it before but I wonder if most states have the same policy for rescues that were implemented because of someones lack of preparation and planning ? Guess in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter much. It’s just life and stuff happens…

                1. I vaguely recall that … of course, it varies. But I think there are good reasons why folks aren’t billed a lot. You then have to make a case in court for those who appeal. Folks have a right to challenge the allegations, so they have to make a pretty good case of total lack of preparation/planning, etc. etc.

      2. our economy and its addiction to tourism is failing miserably – how about we put the people who live here ahead of your precious economy, and the few who get very rich on what they extract from the place where we live?

  2. He was smart enough to dress in layers but was wearing tennis shoes. That really wasn’t very intelligent, but at least he wasn’t from California…

    – What’s really not intelligent is being from out of state, not knowing the area, and not
    having at least a gps. It should be a law that anyone on a snow machine has a gps, maps and a basic old school compass, AND know how to use them. People spend tens of thousands of dollars on a snow machine, trailer and gear and don’t spend a few hundred dollars on survival equipment and take the time to learn how to use it…
    If they choose not to, they should be held financially responsible for every dollar spent
    on their rescue. Not only is it expensive it also ties up resources that might be needed for other emergencies,and every time a search party goes out, especially in a very remote area, they are putting rescuers at risk just because of their stupidity…

      1. No actually I don’t. They are already more involved in many things than they should be.
        It’s just really p….. me off when you read about adults that go out, and they aren’t prepared for the worst, especially in an area they don’t know and where rescue can take awhile. It’s not like we are in the middle of summer either.
        I guess it really bothers me because I have been spending time outdoors since I was very young, and being prepared is something that was drilled into me since I was a kid. It’s basic common sense. It can save your life or someone elses. Our youngest son has enough common sense to not go out into the woods unprepared, so why is it so hard for middle aged adults ?

      1. That’s true but I’m guessing he didn’t use it. I think there are probably a lot of people
        that don’t know some phones have them, but in fairness, most people don’t have a
        need for one.

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