Three Rescued in Southern Idaho Desert
ARCO, Idaho (Press Release)-The Blaine County Sheriff Search and Rescue, with the assistance of several law enforcement agencies, the Idaho Army National Air Guard, and a private pilot, located and rescued three individuals who were stranded for almost two days in a remote area in the Kamima Desert near the Craters of the Moon National Monument on Monday March 7, 2016.
The rescue began on Sunday March 6, 2016, at approximately 1640 hours, when Blaine County Emergency Communications was notified of motorists stranded on the Kamima Road, approximately 23 miles south of Arco. Steve L. Boles, age 46, and Opal A. Jepson, age 27, both of American Falls, were driving a 2003 Ford truck when they became stuck on the unmaintained road in deep snow and mud on Saturday March 5, 2016.
Boles and Jepson contacted William E. Young, age 57, also of American Falls, to assist them on Sunday. Unfortunately, when Young arrived, driving a 1994 Chevy pickup, he became stuck as well. The three spent more than 24 hours without food or water, according to Blaine County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Steve Harkins. “These people are incredibly fortunate. It all could have gone so different,” said Harkins. “We were fortunate to have favorable weather but we knew there was a storm on the way Tuesday.”
The Blaine County Sheriff’s Office dispatched deputies Sunday evening to the area on ATVs at in the first attempt to locate and rescue the motorists. Due to darkness and the size of the known search area, the deputies had to later call off the search for the night. Early Monday March 7, 2016, a Butte County Sheriff’s Office deputy set out driving towards the reported position, but was unsuccessful at locating the stranded motorists.
Resources within the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office promptly began to mobilize. Blaine County Sheriff Gene D. Ramsey, with the assistance of private back country pilot Galen Hanselman, took to the air to confirm the approximate GPS coordinates provided by the motorist’s phone. A request for assistance was made to the U.S. Army Air Guard Unit and a Blackhawk helicopter was dispatched from Boise, Idaho.
At approximately 1300 hours, the private plane located the three stranded motorists and relayed the specific coordinates to the in route Idaho Air Guard Blackhawk helicopter. Sheriff Ramsey dropped a bag containing some emergency food and water on the road near the location of the vehicles from the airplane. At approximately 1430 hours, the Idaho Air Guard rescued Boles, Jepson, and Young and transported them to the Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey, Idaho.
They were then transported to the Blaine County Public Safety Facility where family members arrived to meet them. There were no injuries or medical issues involved with the rescue. The vehicles will remain in their current locations until conditions will allow for retrieval.
Sheriff Ramsey and Chief Deputy Harkins wish to thank everyone involved with efforts to find rescue these individuals. “All the best elements of our community, law enforcement training and preparedness came together to make a life critical difference in this situation. We are extremely pleased with the successful outcome, but we need to stress that the public should not travel on seasonally unmaintained roads which can be extremely dangerous for travel at this time of the year,” said Harkins.
The Blaine County Sheriff’s Office would like to acknowledge the outstanding collaborative efforts of the Idaho Army National Air Guard Units from Boise, Sun Valley Fire Department, Butte County Sheriff’s Office, Minidoka County Sheriff’s Office, Power County Sheriff’s Office, Bureau of Land Management, Blaine County Emergency Communications, BCSO Deputies and the BCSO Search and Rescue Team in assisting with this rescue.
Sheriff Ramsey added, “We are extremely appreciative of the immediacy of the interagency support this search received. Our ability to pull resources together, both public and private, made the difference between these folks going home with their families versus a potential tragedy. Please do not underestimate the seriousness of current conditions.”