Park County Search and Rescue Does Double Duty on July 9

Park County Search and Rescue Does Double Duty on July 9

Written by on July 13, 2021

It was a busy but successful day for Park County Search and Rescue, as skilled volunteers rescued residents in the Beartooths and on the Buffalo Bill Reservoir.

Volunteers of Park County Search and Rescue rose to the challenge of responding to two simultaneous calls on Friday, July 9. After much effort and coordination, all four people were located and rescued from perilous situations.

The first call came into the Park County Communications Center at 4:39 P.M. A 67-year-old-male and a 72 year-old-female were unable to get back to their vehicle after a kayak excursion on Lily Lake in the Beartooth Mountains.

The woman had been kayaking in the lake when her kayak overturned. While she was able to get back to shore, she and her husband suffered exhaustion from the event and could not make the hike back to their vehicle.

As usual, Park County Search and Rescue (P.C.S.A.R.) mobilized to respond along with a Cody Regional Health ambulance. By 5:17 p.m., P.S.C.A.R. units were gathering and about to embark to Lily Lake to rescue the exhausted couple.

That’s when the second call came in . . .

A 28 year-old-female and her 5 year-old-child were being blown out onto the Buffalo Bill Reservoir by the sudden high winds. The mom was on a sit-on-top kayak, towing her child on an innertube at the North Shore.

When the wind quickly picked up, the kayak was blown away from the shore, further into the reservoir. By 5:29 p.m., the winds had caused both watercraft to flip over, and the mother and child were in the water.

Courtesy Park County Sheriff’s Office

There was no time to waste.

P.C.S.A.R., Park County Sheriff’s Office, Cody Regional Health EMS, and the Cody Fire Department were dispatched to the Buffalo Bill Reservoir while a separate crew departed to Lily Lake.

P.C.S.A.R. got to the reservoir first, at 5:33 p.m. PCSAR wasted no time getting in the water, assisted by deputies taking high points on the bank and glassing (binoculars) the water.

Winds were blowing and gusting so hard it was pushing the units still onshore forward. The water’s surface was very turbulent and nothing, but white caps, which were 6 to 8 feet tall, were visible to the searchers.

The child was found at 6:06 p.m., conscious and alert. Thankfully, she was wearing a personal flotation device that kept her safely above the water.

“This is an example of a PFD saving a life,” stated PCSAR Coordinator Bill Brown, “with the ever-changing conditions in this area, there is never a routine day. Safety precautions should always be in place.”

At 6:24 p.m., the mother was found. She, too, had managed to stay above water and was conscious and alert when P.C.S.A.R. reached her.

Both mother and daughter received initial treatment a paramedic on the rescue boat sent to retrieve them. They were then transported back to shore and from there to Cody Regional Health by ambulance.

Shortly after this – at 6:52 p.m. – the second team reached the exhausted couple stranded at Lily Lake. They were assessed and assisted back to their vehicle by 7:23 p.m., safe and unharmed.

Courtesy Park County Search and Rescue

These are the kinds of days that prove Park County Search and Rescue is one of the best in the nation at what they do.

Undersheriff Andy Varian was one of the deputies who responded to the call at Buffalo Bill Reservoir.

“The speed and teamwork of getting the boat on the water, assembling a team to go out (to include medical personnel), and launching the effort with everyone knowing exactly their role were both impressive and highly professional,” Varian says.

This is nothing new for P.C.S.A.R. volunteers. In March 2021, the entire team underwent a training exercise to respond to two very different, simultaneous calls to prepare themselves for days like July 9.

“P.C.S.A.R. has unique challenges not only with the amount of area they cover but with the varied topography throughout our region,” said Lance Mathess, former coordinator of P.C.S.A.R. during the March training exercise. “Park County has swim water, deep water, caves, and cliffs. Not to mention ice-climbing, snowmobiles, grizzly bears – we’ve got it all.”

“The people of Park County can and should know – you can count on us at all times, and we’re here for you,” Mathess said.

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