Alpine County, Calif. January 18, 2017 – On January 17, 2017 at 7:00 a.m. California Highway Patrol Helicopter 20 (H-20) was requested for a Search and Rescue (SAR) by Alpine County Sheriff’s Office for two overdue snowmobile riders.
Aaron Heard and Paul Farley had arrived at the Blue Lakes OHV Park on Monday for a day of fun on their snowmobiles when things turned for the worst. During the ride, one the snowmobiles became disabled. Using the good snowmobile, they were towing the disable vehicle back to their vehicle. Over the course of towing, the good snowmobile became disabled from excessive strain on the drive train. Mr. Heard and Mr. Farely were faced with the realization that they were stuck. The snow was too deep to hike out and the day light was nearing an end. They decided that with their limited supplies that they would shelter in place. With a space blanket and bivy sack, the two huddled in a tree well to try and keep each other warm. The temperatures dropped to -3° Fahrenheit during the night and both were extremely cold. Around 11:40 p.m. the men were reported as overdue to the Alpine County Sheriff dispatch center by one of the spouses. Due weather, mountainous terrain, and late-night H-20 was not able to respond until first light.
On Tuesday morning, H-20 responded from the Auburn Municipal Airport. Once they arrived at Blue Lakes OHV Park they began a grid search of the area. Both parties were located approximately five miles from their vehicle. Once they heard the helicopter, they came out from the under the tree and began waving their arms. H-20 was able to land near the riders and taken one at a time back to the OHV parking lot where Lake Valley Fire ambulance was standing by. They were transported to a local hospital for cold related injuries.
It is very important to have a cell phone, satellite phone, or a satellite-based emergency locator beacon especially in rural areas with limited coverage.