Deschutes County Search and Rescue helped seven people back to safety Sunday night after a Eugene man got stuck in the snow on the Cascade Lakes Highway and his cousin and a buddy got stuck trying to help.
Deputy Kyle Joye, the SAR assistant special services coordinator, said the incident started around 10 p.m. when Eric Valentine called dispatch saying he was stuck in the snow.
Valentine, of La Pine, reported his nephew, Brandon Dustin, had left Lapine around 5 p.m. and took the “back way” to Eugene.
The nephew, Dustin planned on taking US Highway 372 over to US Highway 58, using a shortcut to Eugene, Joye said.
After finding snowmobiles traveling the highway and getting advice from the riders that the highway was closed, Dustin tried to turn around and became stuck in the snow.
Valentine responded to help and also became stuck in the snow.
During this initial call, Valentine decided to call a friend with a tow truck and declined any Search and Rescue assistance.
But just after 1 a.m. Valentine again called 911, reporting his friend, 43-year-old Jason Winford of La Pine, who was supposed to bring up a tow truck instead drove up a Chevy Suburban and he was also stuck in the snow.
Valentine reported there were now three vehicles stuck and seven people including one minor were stranded.
Using Valentine’s 911 call as a locating tool, Search and Rescue was able to confirm Valentine’s location was at milepost 53 US Highway 372.
Valentine reported all three vehicles were within a few hundred yards of each other and all occupants were warm and safe inside the vehicles, Joye said.
Two SAR volunteers and one Special Services Deputy responded to help.
Two SAR members traveled the majority of the way to the stuck subjects with a 4×4 pickup. They then deployed the tracked DCSO SAR ARGO ATV as well as a tracked Polaris Ranger ATV and found everyone around 4:30 a.m.
All seven were provided a courtesy ride back to the intersection of FS Rd 42 and FS Rd 43 where they were reunited with their family.
The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office would like to remind those traveling during the winter to anticipate changes in the weather and varying snowpack conditions.
It is also recommended if you’re travelling forest service roads this time of year they are generally not maintained so planning your route is suggested.
Also, be sure to bring appropriate vehicles and equipment: including a shovel, lighting, clothing, blankets, food, water, navigation and communication devices to include a cell phone charger.