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Search and rescue volunteers assist stranded snowmobiler



Salida, Colorado


For Immediate Release, Friday, March 6, 2015

Search and rescue volunteers assist stranded snowmobiler

At about 7:55 a.m., the Chaffee County Communications Center received a 911 call reporting that two snowmobiliers had become stranded overnight on Cottonwood Pass. One of the snowmobiliers had been able to hike out of the area in the early morning hours to summon help; the other was reported to still be stranded and suffering from exposure to the cold.

Members of the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office and Chaffee County Emergency Medical Services responded to Spring Canyon Ranch, where they met with the reporting party, Taylor Wilmington, 25 years old, who reported that he and a friend, Sa’id Handel, also 25, had been snowmobiling the previous afternoon when their snowmobiles had become immersed in deep snow off the groomed trail. The two friends, both from Buena Vista, had departed from the Denny Creek Trailhead around 4:30 p.m. and were returning to the trailhead around sunset when they became stranded.

After working for several hours in a failed attempt to free both snowmobiles, the two began to focus on surviving the cold. After digging snow trenches for protection from the elements and building a fire, the two struggled to remain warm as temperatures plummeted.

Near morning, Wilmington hiked out to the main Cottonwood Pass Trail (County Road 306), where a passing snowmobiler gave him a ride back to his vehicle at the trailhead; he then drove to Spring Canyon Ranch to call for assistance.

Wilmington reported to Deputies that Handel was suffering frostbite on all four extremities and that he believed his core temperature was dangerously low.

Five members of Chaffee County Search and Rescue North, two Colorado Parks and Wildlife Rangers, and one Paramedic from Chaffee County EMS responded on snowmobiles to the area and located Handel at approximately 9:20 a.m.

Both Handel and Wilmington were checked for injuries by Chaffee County EMS and were found to be unharmed from their ordeal. A Flight for Life helicopter also responded to the area to assist with medical aid, but departed once it was determined that their services were not needed.