At 2:50 AM on Monday, February 13th, Life Flight Network’s Communications Center received a request from Beaverhead County Sheriff’s Department to conduct a search and assist for two overdue snowmobilers in a remote part of Beaverhead County, Montana. Life Flight Network’s primary role and commitment is to provide ICU-level air transport of critically ill or injured patients, but at times can assist local agencies with search operations.
Life Flight Network’s Butte-based helicopter was activated. The helicopter was in the air within 15 minutes of the initial request and started searching for the two male subjects in the Wise River/Grasshopper area. “The entire crew knew the area we’d be searching as we too have explored there, but looking for two snowmobilers in a 100 square mile search area, at night, in the Montana back country is a daunting task,” says Kris Wyant, pilot for Life Flight Network.
After searching the area for over an hour the aircraft returned to Butte to refuel. The flight crew felt they had a great chance of finding the missing individuals due to aid from night vision goggles and the possibility the missing individuals had flashlights or a warming fire. The flight crew began a second search after refueling.
Shortly after returning back to the search area, the crew saw the light from a fire the snowmobilers had started. Upon locating the missing party, communication was made with Beaverhead County Search and Rescue and the crew landed. The two subjects said they were uninjured but were lost and low on fuel. Thinking quickly, the pilot and crew came up with a plan to aid the two back to the groomed trail and ultimately their vehicles. Using the helicopter’s high-powered spot light, the pilot shown the way to the groomed trail below and directed the lost individuals to their vehicles.
“It’s impossible to describe the weight that was lifted from my chest and the satisfaction that is gained from flying over a ridge after an hour of searching and seeing that tiny fire glowing in the trees,” recalls Wyant.
“I was truly amazed by the response of Beaverhead County Search and Rescue; I believe they had 15 people on snowmobiles out searching. It made my heart happy to know that we were able to help locate the missing men and get them home to their families safe and sound,” says Collette Lilyquist, Clinical Manager and flight nurse for Life Flight Network.
Life Flight Network prides itself on being a community partner. “Our employees live, work, and play here. We understand the uniqueness of Montana and are committed to help whenever possible. We get a lot and give a lot back. That could have been any of us out there,” says Lilyquist.
“Life Flight has been great to work with and is always willing to help,” says Beaverhead County Undersheriff Dave Chase.