Multiple agencies responded
to a runaway pickup truck crash in
Hoback Canyon on Wednesday, July 10.
A local driver, Scott Smith, 66, experienced
a “medical event” while operating the
vehicle and tried to pull over on the side of
the highway, said Wyoming Highway Patrol
Lt. Klief Guenther. Smith’s condition
worsened and he accidently accelerated his
truck, lost control and ended up in the Hoback
River, Guenther added.
People in another vehicle saw the accident
and immediately pulled over to provide
assistance. The good Samaritans braved the
churning spring runoff and made a human
chain to pull Smith safely to shore, Guenther
said. His report did not reveal the identities
of the helpers or where they came from.
The civilian rescuers cared for Smith until
first responders arrived, Guenther said.
The accident took place at milepost 149.5
on Highway 191, within Sublette County.
The Wyoming Highway Patrol, Sublette
County EMS and a crew from Sublette
County Unified Fire Battalion No. 3 out of
Bondurant arrived. Tip Top Search and Rescue
were also on scene.
Smith removed his seatbelt as he tried to
pull off the highway and sustained minor
injuries when his truck went in the river,
Guenther said. Sublette EMS transported
Smith to the Pinedale Clinic where he was
cared for and later released, confirmed Bill
Kluck, EMS operations director.
Once EMS evacuated Smith from the
scene, first responders tackled the challenge
of removing the truck from the river. A 16-
ton wrecker operated by Ron’s Towing from
Jackson showed up with a boom, towing line
and hooks to pull the pickup up and out of
Several feet of churning water lay between
the truck and shore. Kirby Orme,
the wrecker driver, was unable to reach the
The Tip Top Search and Rescue Volunteer
Coordinator Kenna Tanner, on the scene
first with volunteer Dave Lankford, did not
want anybody risking the swiftly moving
spring runoff alone.
“With water that high, you need to be
diligent around that,” said Tanner after the
Tanner called in Tip Top’s swift water
rescue team led by Kris Searles. Searles
and his crew launched the agency’s Zodiak,
an inflatable boat, from a campsite about a
Searles and fellow volunteers John Kochever
and Aaron Koch steered the motorpowered
boat down the river and safely
maneuvered it around the pickup truck. The
volunteers were decked out in life jackets,
helmets and waterproof outfits suitable for
white-water conditions – equipment the
other first responders lacked.
From the Zodiak, Kochever, Koch and
Searles secured cables to the truck and
linked them to Orme’s hooks on shore.
Another team of Tip Top volunteers –
Steve Kipp and Tom Rinker – established
a “downstream safety position” where they
stood by with throw bags and a rescue board
in case “anything went awry,” Tanner said.
With the pickup truck linked to the hooks
on shore, Orme operated the wrecker to
slowly pull the vehicle up and out of the
water, over willows and onto shore. The
operation went by the book and the pickup
truck made it out in one piece.
Tanner said the location in the river
helped. There were no large rocks, rapids or
debris around to snag the Zodiak.
“The accident was really unfortunate,”
she said. “But it couldn’t have been a better
spot to utilize the Zodiak.”