Weather Hinders Search for Missing Snowmobilers; Search Could Take Several Days

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

Rescue crews combed the Grand Mesa for about 17 hours Monday and will continue the search for three snowmobilers, who have been missing since Sunday night.

Drive about 20 miles east of Collbran, and you'll find a vast wilderness where many go to enjoy hunting and snowmobiling. But it's the last place rescue crews want to go hunting for snowmobilers.

"To this point, we haven't found a lot of leads to tell us which direction they went," said Lieutenant Jim Fogg of the Mesa County Sheriff's Office. "It's big country."

Officials say Sunday night, three men from the Riflt / Silt area -- two in their 20s and one in his 40s -- were reported missing by their families after they didn't make it home from a snowmobiling trip. Deputies say after they received the call, they were able to track down the men's car, but not them.

At 6:00 Monday morning, rescue crews from Mesa County and Garfield County began the search for them. A search helicopter from Olathe was also called in to help. Hours into the day, they say they weren't having much luck.

"We're anticipating we could be on a multi-day search here," said Lt. Fogg.

They say the snowy weather and white out conditions in the area Monday afternoon didn't help their efforts.

"The snow will cover any tracks we have, any evidence that we might find," said Lt. Fogg. "On top of that, the aircraft are going to be very limited in what they can do."

In addition to battling the elements, officials say they've also had to work through communication issues, being in such a remote location. To help with that, the Grand Junction Mobile Communication Vehicle was sent to the scene, so crews could effectively work through the night and possibly the next few days.

"Because of the scope of it, we thought this was an appropriate deployment," said Lt. Fogg.

Officials say the focus for crews Monday was to do wide sweeps of the area. Tuesday, that will change.

"What we'll do is narrow down in the morning and really start eliminating areas by doing very involved searches," said Lt. Fogg.

Without much else to go on, they say they hope it works.

"We're having to rely on a little bit of luck," said Lt. Fogg.

Officials believe the three men have had some experience with snowmobiling, but do not know if they have food or other supplies with them.

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