A team effort

Spring runoff in the Hoback River nearly swept Scott Smith’s pickup truck away.

Rescuers respond to crash in Hoback Canyon

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

the Hoback.

Several feet of churning water lay between

the truck and shore. Kirby Orme,

the wrecker driver, was unable to reach the

truck.

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

rescue effort.

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

quarter-mile upriver.

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.”

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