A 68-year-old snowmobiler missing since Thursday was found alive and "in fairly good shape" early Saturday, according to a Yakima County Sheriff's Office news release.
YAKIMA — A 68-year-old snowmobiler who went missing near Tampico on Thursday was found alive and “in fairly good shape” early Saturday, according to a Yakima County Sheriff’s Office news release.
The man — identified by officials only as a Mr. Hayes — was located in a tree well at about 3 a.m. Saturday in the South Fork of the Ahtanum Drainage. Hayes was transported by snowmobile rescue teams to the Ahtanum Snow Park and then transferred to an ambulance, which took him to Yakima Memorial Hospital.
Hayes was being treated for exposure and possible frostbite.
“He’s a pretty tough guy,” said George Town, coordinator of the Sheriff’s Office search-and-rescue team.
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Search teams were yelling for Hayes when they heard him yelling back in the early morning hours. Hayes told searchers he had been traveling downhill at about 1 p.m. Thursday when his snowmobile dropped into a tree well and became stuck.
A tree well is formed when falling snow is kept by branches from reaching the base of a tree, forming under the branches a dangerous open area that can be several feet deep.
Hayes was able to get the snowmobile unstuck, but it fell into another tree well shortly thereafter. He was able to start a fire but could not maintain it for lack of fuel, according to the news release.
Search teams were assisted by snowmobile units from the West Valley Fire Department and a helicopter from the King County Sheriff’s Office. A total of 35 volunteers and paid personnel participated in the search.
The man had gone snowmobiling alone at the Ahtanum Sno-Park, a popular snowmobile destination about 15 miles west of Tampico along the North Fork Road, and he didn’t return home that evening.
Town said that for safety reasons, no one should go snowmobiling alone.
“It’s dangerous stuff, as one can see,” he said.