Sheriff Addresses Search and Rescue Questions
Written by Andrew-Rossi on May 11, 2018
The Park County Sheriff’s office has been receiving questions from the public after Search and Rescue assisted two men who drove around the “Road Closed” signs on the Beartooth Highway and became stuck in the snow on May 2nd.
In response to those questions, Sheriff Scott Steward released a statement yesterday explaining the County’s procedures with regards to the incident.
Steward explained that the two men did not receive citations for violating the highway rules because at the time of the rescue, no deputy was available to speak to the driver of the vehicle – and by the time a deputy became available, Search and Rescue crews had already been dispatched and freed the vehicle, and those volunteers had no authority to hold them once they were freed from the snow.
Steward says that issuing misdemeanor traffic citations to out-of-state drivers once they’ve left the area is problematic, but after this incident, the department is in discussions with the county attorney to determine the best way to move forward. He says that if there is an efficient and effective way to issue citations at this point, they will proceed.
Steward also addressed the issue of charging for the rescue. He points out that Search and Rescue is a service provided to the citizens of and visitors to Park County just like all of the other services they provide, and by statute, they cannot charge for those services under any circumstance.
Additionally, Steward points out that if the department were to charge for search and rescue services, there are some who would not call for fear of not being able to afford it. He says that if those in distress knew they may be charged, some might never call, which puts lives in jeopardy.