Snowmobilers Rescued After Intense Beartooth Mountain Search
Written by Andrew-Rossi on February 22, 2021
Dozens of volunteers and several aircraft from many agencies mobilized to find the two stranded snowmobilers, who were found alive after a three-day search.
A call came into the Park County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch Office on Thursday, Feb. 18: two snowmobilers – Trevor Wayne Deal, age 22 of Bridger, Montana, and Maison Deacon Ostwald, age 21 of Laurel, Montana – went out for an excursion that morning, and had yet to return. They had called a friend at 5 p.m. saying one of their vehicles was disabled and they were trying to reach a road on foot.
Park County Search and Rescue (PCSAR) was the initial agency to respond to the call, enlisting the aid of the Cody Country Snowmobile Association and volunteers from Snow Search. They searched for the pair of snowmobilers until 4 a.m. Friday morning, until suspending operations for the night.
At 7 a.m. Friday morning, the search resumed. This time, the PCSAR group was joined by searchers from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Shoshone National Forest and 50 volunteers on their own snowmobiles.
Two Blackhawk helicopters were also enlisted to help: one from the Cheyenne Army Air National Guard, the other from the Air Force Rescue Wing from the Malmstrom, Montana Air Force Base. A fixed-wing airplane also joined the effort.
Efforts began in earnest, with Park County Search and Rescue leading the way.
Thanks to the Park County Homeland Security Director, the origin of the snowmobiler’s last cell phone call was traced. This gave the search parties a trail to follow – which led them to a trail of tracks and an abandoned snowmobile.
With inclement weather and nightfall approaching, search efforts were again suspended.
By 6 a.m. Saturday morning (Feb. 20) everyone was searching once again. Two PCSAR members boarded the Montana Air Force Rescue Wing helicopter – this time, a Bell UH-1 Iroquois – to do an aerial survey following the tracks found the day before.
The aerial survey found the second snowmobile, also abandoned. By now, the search was zeroing in at the base of Table Mountain when the helicopter dropped the PCSAR members off – it needed to return to Cody for fuel.
When the chopper departed, the searchers heard voices – Deal and Ostwald, calling for help.
The two men were found sheltering in a cluster of spruce trees up the side of Table Mountain. They were both exhausted, dehydrated, and hypothermic but otherwise in “relatively good shape.”
Once the helicopter returned from Cody, the two men were evacuated to a Cody Regional Health ambulance. Ostwald has since were taken to the Idaho Falls Burn Center for the treatment of severe frostbite. Deal refused treatment.
The story Dean and Ostwald told after their rescue is chilling – literally and figuratively.
After they encountered heavy snow near Fanton Lake, the first snowmobile rolled over and they could not get it upright. Ultimately, they abandoned the vehicle and tried taking the working snowmobile to the foot of Table Mountain.
As it got darker, they started a fire with the snowmobile’s gasoline and a sparkplug wire – it’s all they had. They spent the night around the fire, with plans to resume the descent the next morning.
On Friday morning, the second snowmobile hit a boulder buried in the snow. It broke the steering linkage, rendering it useless. The men decided to abandon that snowmobile, as they had the first.
The two friends spent Friday night covered in spruce branches in an attempt to stay warm. When they awoke the next morning, neither many could feel their lower half and found their further descent extremely difficult.
Both of them braced for the worst – if they weren’t found in a few hours, they were convinced they would “curl up and die.”
And that’s when they heard the helicopter . . .
Once the Huey departed for its Cody refueling, the two men heard the snowmobiles of the PCSAR team and its volunteers. That’s when they began calling for help.
Sheriff Scott Steward praises not only the incredible selflessness of the rescuers but also recognized the interagency cooperation that resulted in the successful rescue of these two brave young men.
“Most often search and rescue missions, similar to this one, do not have a positive outcome, so it was incredibly satisfying for our members to have such an emotionally rewarding end result,” the sheriff says. “And this was in no small part due to the volunteers who stepped up in a time of need. All of us should be grateful for their unselfish giving attitude.”