Sublette County SAR assists other counties

John Linn works with the remote-operated vehicle used to search under water. The device has been used several times this summer to locate drowning victims.

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

drowning victims.

Sublette County SAR assists other counties

From Tip Top Search and Rescue

underwater searches.

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.


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