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Friday, August 3, 2012

Search and Rescue Stories in the News

Image Credit: Wikimedia / CC 3.0
Some SAR Stories I've collected lately and thought I'd share. If you have any links or Search & Rescue stories of your own to post, please add them in the guestbook or email me at to be included in a future blog post.

Catch Me If You Can

When Robert Wood Jr. disappeared in a densely forested Virginia park, searchers faced the challenge of a lifetime. The eight-year-old boy was autistic and nonverbal, and from his perspective the largest manhunt in state history probably looked like something else: the ultimate game of hide-and-seek. Read this fascinating, 13-page story from Outside Magazine.


American Climbers Missing in Peru

A search team reached the base camp and spotted the apparent tracks of two U.S. mountaineers who had not been heard from since July 11th, when they set off to climb a 20,000-foot glacier-capped peak in the Cordillera Blanca range of northern Peru. Gil Weiss, 29, and Ben Horne, 32, both experienced climbers, were attempting the west summit of Palcaraju from the south. Read about the search, which included the use of satellite imagery, and then how the search ended.

Bright Idea! Hiker Saved by Flashlight App

A lost hiker on Maryland's Catoctin Mountain used an iPhone application to signal rescuers. Read about it on (I'm just sayin' ... but I think any lighted cell phone screen or other light source would have worked. Don't you? No app necessary.)

Boy Plucked From Wallace Falls

The 13-year-old Burien, Washington, boy who was rescued from a ledge just feet away from 265-foot Wallace Falls said he's fortunate he walked away from the ordeal with little more than cuts and scrapes on his feet. He narrowly escaped being swept over the falls and spent the night shivering on the ledge before being rescued by volunteers from the  Snohomish County Sheriff's Search and Rescue Team. Read the story in the Seattle Times and watch a video of the rescue.

Wallace Falls Rescue Mission from A. Toyota on Vimeo.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Some Tough Rescue-ees in the News

The odds may have been against these folks, but they survived. Here are some Search and Rescue stories--some recent, some not--with rather surprising happy endings. These are great examples of why searchers should never assume that a subject is definitely deceased, even if the likelihood seems high.

Former Marine Found After 2 Days in the Oregon Snow

37 year-old Jason Cooper had been involved in a minor, low-speed fender-bender on Highway 138D, which cuts through Umpqua National Forest, when he was seen by the other driver run off through the snow into the woods. Cooper was wearing shorts and sandals.

Law enforcement followed the man's tracks in snow that was 2 feet deep, but they had to suspend the search at dark.  Police became more concerned when they learned that Cooper suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.  

Read the whole article on

Swedish Man Survives Two Months in Snow-Buried Car

The 45-year-old from southern Sweden was found emaciated and too weak to utter more than a few words.  The temperature in the area had recently dropped to -22F (-30C).  He was located not far from the city of Umea in the north of Sweden by snowmobilers who thought they had come across a car wreck until they dug their way to a window and saw movement inside.

Read the story on MSNBC.

Swiss National Survives Three Cold Nights Stuck in an Arizona Canyon

He'd heard about Waterholes Canyon, which leads down to the Colorado River in Grand Canyon, from someone on a tour the previous day and thought he'd give it a try. Being an experienced climber, he apparently wasn't concerned about getting back up after going down. And when he found ropes already set up at the first couple of rappels, left behind by other canyoneers, he figured (he later said) the ropes would continue all the way to the bottom. They did not. And whether he knew about the 400-foot rappel along the way, I don't know.

Well, things didn't go as expected. The man ended up stranded deep in the canyon, with an ankle injury and rope burns on both hands, through a wet winter storm, wearing shorts, missing his socks, and without food and water.

Read more about the mission on my blog, Deb's Search and Rescue Stories.

Hiker Missing for Almost a Month Found in New Mexico

A female hiker and her cat had been reported missing more than two weeks before the search actually began. She was eventually found, emaciated and malnourished, in her sleeping bag in a rugged National Forest. (The cat survived, too.)

Read the story on USA Today and watch this video about the story...

Two Hikers Survived Seven Weeks in South American Jungle

The hike was supposed to last for ten days. Instead, two 34-year-old Frenchmen survived on seeds, frogs, turtles, beetles and tarantulas for seven weeks. The search had been suspended after three.

Read the story on Journal Peru.

Woman Survives 7 Weeks in Remote Area of Nevada

You probably heard about this one. The woman and her husband were driving from British Columbia to Las Vegas, following the directions of a GPS ... blindly so it seems. The husband left the stranded van after a few days in an attempt to get help. He has not been seen since, but he wife miraculously survived.

Read the story on Reuters.

Injured British Hiker Survives Week-Long Ordeal Stranded in New Zealand Wilderness

A 33-year-old man spends 8 days in the backcountry after a fall down a 15-foot cliff, with a broken ankle and gash in his thigh.

Read the story on Mail Online.

Severely Injured Woman Survives Four Days and Nights in The Sierras

Amy Racina was hiking in a remote part of King's Canyon National Park in California when she lost the trail and suddenly fell sixty feet, breaking both legs. She battled pain, fear and exhaustion, pulling herself along with her hands and refusing to give up. Amy was saved when her calls heard by a man who was partially deaf.

Read the full story in Amy's book, Angels in the Wilderness, available in hard cover, paperback and on Kindle.

Have you ever been involved with or know of a search for someone who'd been missing for an extended period of time but was found alive? If so, please share it here in the guestbook.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Rescuers Consider Amputation to Save a Trapped Victim

Imagine as a rescuer that you might actually have to cut off a victim's limb in the field to potentially save that person's life.

That was what rescuers considered on New Year's Day, as they were trying to free 15-year-old Dion Latta, who was hanging upside down in a waterfall in Wanaka's Motatapu Gorge in New Zealand. His foot was stuck and twisted in a narrow crack, and he'd been sucking air from a pocket behind the water for more than three hours when the amputation was considered. Dion was also hypothermic.

Wanaka-based search and rescue volunteers, police and others weighed all their options as they desperately tried to extricate Dion. Regarding amputation, however, the general medical opinion was that the shock involved with such a procedure under those conditions could itself prove fatal. 

Breaking the flow of the icy water with their bodies, rescuers on rappel were finally able to free Dion, and he was then short-hauled out by helicopter. Unconscious, he was stabilized on scene and flown to Dunedin Hospital. Sadly, though, after the heroic effort to save him, the boy later died.

Read the story and view photos on

Related article:

Field Limb Amputations Used as an Extrication Option in Complicated Entrapments or Disaster Events

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Now, That's a Search & Rescue Response!

White Sands NM (Wikimedia Commons/CC)
Wow, these two lost hikers sure had a lot of resources come to their aid....

From the NPS Digest:

White Sands National Monument (NM)
Newly Engaged Couple Found By Interagency Searchers

"On the afternoon of Monday, January 9th, the Park learned that two visitors who had been hiking within the dunes since noon were lost and unable to find their way out. Russell Vandameer and Karen Renshaw, both of Oklahoma, left to go hiking with their three dogs, Stitch, Suzy, and Griswald. After finding a suitably beautiful spot within the dunes, Vandemeer proposed to Renshaw. The newly engaged couple then attempted to hike back to their car, but were unable to find their way back. Rather than continue to wander becoming more lost, they contacted a cousin via cell phone and requested that help be sent.

An interagency effort was begun that involved the NPS, the Alamo West Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Army. While two Army Rescue Blackhawk helicopters were en route from Fort Bliss, approximately an hour away, Holloman Air Force base diverted an F-22 Raptor from a training mission to the search effort. The pilot of the Raptor was able to positively identify the couple with their three dogs.  Two Air Force drones were also tasked, which were able to relay specific coordinates and monitor the lost hiker's location and movement from the air while the Army helicopters were en route.

The hikers and their dogs were transported by the Army Blackhawks out of the dunes to the command post, where they were examined by NPS and Alamo West EMS for exposure to the below freezing nighttime temperatures. Renshaw accepted Vandemeer's marriage proposal. The newly engaged couple invited the Blackhawk crew to the wedding. The search effort was greatly aided by the assistance of the military aircraft, which utilized night vision and infrared equipment to safely locate the hikers after nightfall."