Tip Top Search and Rescue
has been busy in the Wind River Mountains
the past few weeks assisting hikers and climbers.
Several outdoor enthusiasts were affected
with altitude mountain sickness and needed
assistance out of the mountains to seek medical
“We want to remind those considering trekking
into the high country to take extra time to
acclimate if you have come from lower altitudes,
hydrate well, rest as needed during the
trip, and be alert to the signs and symptoms of
altitude sickness to thwart any serious medical
conditions that can ruin any adventure,” according
to Kenna Tanner, coordinator.
Tip Top SAR has assisted neighboring
counties with specialty equipment and the expertise
of specially-trained members. Tip Top
SAR has side-scan equipment that uses sonar
technology to provide visual images during
Jack Barker photo
John Linn works with the remote-operated vehicle used to search under
water. The device has been used several times this summer to locate
Sublette County SAR assists other counties
From Tip Top Search and Rescue
A towfish is lowered into the water and the
sonar sends out signals that reflect off underwater
objects creating visible shadows. Once
enough plausible clues are gathered, Tip Top
SAR can lower a remote-operated vehicle that
has a live camera, a grasping claw device and
thrusters to allow an operator to maneuver the
device. Live-feed pictures are analyzed on the
deck of the boat via computer.
Tip Top SAR’s underwater team responded
on July 26 through July 28 to assist
Wasatch County Utah Search and Rescue
with the search for two missing fishermen in
Strawberry Reservoir. John Linn and Gary
Wilson worked with several other SAR units
to locate both drowned fishermen with the
sonar device. The ROV enabled dive teams to
successfully retrieve the victims.
Tip Top SAR is also helping South Lincoln
County SAR with a search for a missing man
who fell out of a canoe on Lake Alice on Aug.
12. Linn, joined by fellow Tip Top members
Thom Rinker, Bruce Bartles, Sublette County
Sheriff K.C. Lehr and Lincoln SAR members,
placed equipment into the remote lake that is
not accessible by motor vehicle.
Sublette County’s leased Air Resources
helicopter used a long-line to sling all necessary
equipment to the water’s edge Thursday,
Aug.15. The team is attempting to rig
the equipment onto a small boat to begin the
search for the canoeist.
On Aug. 10, the Fremont County Sheriff’s
Office requested assistance with an injured
climber on Pingora Peak, Cirque of Towers,
in the Wind River Range. The initial request
was for use of the leased helicopter to assist
flying Fremont County’s High Angle team
members into the Cirque so they could help
injured climbers. The report was a climber had
fallen on Pingora at about 11,800 feet. Winds
grounded any air rescue activity from both the
Fremont County side as well as the Sublette
County side of the Wind River Mountains.
Sublette County’s short-haul team was placed
on stand-by in case a window of opportunity
opened to assist.
This team, specializing in rescue using
Sublette County and Tip Top’s helicopter,
was stationed about 12 minutes away from the
Cirque of Towers awaiting favorable conditions.
When the weather was safe to operate,
Tip Top SAR attempted a short-haul rescue.
A reconnaissance flight was performed to see
if the helicopter could safely get rescuers in
and out of the area. Tip Top SAR members
Milford Lockwood, Cody Wilson and Lesta
Erickson, under the care of pilot Jason Legge,
were then able to locate, package and fly the
injured 67-year-old climber off the mountain
The climber was lowered to the valley floor
near Lonesome Lake and due to the extent of
his injuries, the injured climber was immobilized
in a vacuum mattress splint and prepared
for transfer. Due to the winds and inability of
a medical helicopter to land in the backcountry,
the Pinedale Medical Clinic was chosen
as the nearest destination with clinic staff. He
suffered “extensive injuries” and was later airlifted
from the area to an Idaho hospital Saturday.
A return flight to the Cirque to retrieve
equipment and remaining TTSAR members
finalized the rescue.
Search and rescue members were then notified
of a second climber, Zijah Kurtovic, 63,
of Evanston, Ill., who had died of “massive
blunt-force trauma from a fall from extreme
height,” according to Fremont County Coroner
Mark Stratmoen. He estimated Kurtovic
fell 500 to 700 feet from the Cirque of the
Towers on Pingora Peak.
Reaching the deceased proved more difficult.
Officials said several attempts to access
the body were “hampered by severe weather
and high winds, making helicopter operations
Instead, on Aug. 12, a five-person team of
search-and-rescue volunteers, supported by a
U.S. Forest Service pack team, began hiking
to the base of Pingora Peak. The body was recovered
and lowered down the mountain, then
transferred to a horse team.