Park County Search and Rescue Saves Couple on Beartooth Highway

Park County Search and Rescue Saves Couple on Beartooth Highway

Written by on May 3, 2021

Park County Search and Rescue is always quick to respond to emergency calls, but safety begins with common sense, awareness, and following traffic signs.

The Park County Search and Rescue Team’s latest call took them to the Beartooth Highway to save two stranded motorists. It was a close call, but one that never should’ve happened.

On Monday, April 26th, the Park County Communications Center received a call at 8:02 p.m. Two people – a 60-year-old-man and a 59-year-old-woman – were stranded on Highway 212, just over the Wyoming side of the Wyoming/Montana State line.

Apparently, the two left Red Lodge in their Volvo XC90. They intended to take the Beartooth Highway to Cooke City – an excellent plan during the summer.

By getting onto Highway 212, they didn’t see or ignored the road closure sign at Pilot Creek and continued onto the snow-covered summit.

At the beginning of May, the Beartooth Highway is still thoroughly covered in snow. Clearing operations began in late April but will take some time to reach completion.

Once the Volvo reached mile marker one, it got stuck in the snow on the Wyoming side of the Wyoming/Montana State line. Considering the location and unreliable cell service, the couple was very fortunate to place a call to the Park County Communications Center for help.

Park County Search and Rescue, Wyoming Highway Patrol, and BLM Law Enforcement responded to the scene. The two were rescued and evacuated to Cody, and their vehicle was later towed into town by a local tow company.

Courtesy Park County Sheriff’s Office

Another successful Park County Search and Rescue operation – but a completely avoidable one.

The Park County Sheriff’s Office takes this latest rescue as an opportunity to remind locals and tourists of the inherent hazards in northwest Wyoming. Remote, open areas often mean bad or nonexistent cell service and unreliable GPS mapping.

In a release detailing the latest rescue, the Park County Sheriff’s Office elaborated on how unreliable cell phones and GPS can be, especially on routes like the Beartooth Highway.

“One of the great features of our beloved state is the remote and open areas that are astounding to experience. However, part of that experience requires research and responsibility. Cell phone service is spotty in some of these remote locations (which some would argue is part of the charm), and GPS mapping services don’t always account for local nuances, seasonal closures, local laws, and/or conditions.”

Whether the couple was relying on GPS hasn’t been disclosed.

Regardless of how they were navigating, they ignored the most important sign – the literal “Road Closed” sign in Pilot Creek.

“Traffic control devices, even the temporary ones, are in place for safety purposes and should not be disregarded for any reason,” commented SAR Coordinator Bill Brown, “especially a ROAD CLOSED sign.”

In this case, the call came at the expense of several local agencies.

Locals might think they know better, but research and responsibility are always important for any adventure. It might be the difference between life and death or several hours stranded in danger.

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