Lost Hiker Draws Large Search Attempt – Started Signal Fires To Attract Rescuers
A missing 19 year-old hiker lit several signal fires in the Seeley Lake wilderness area to attract rescuers over the Fourth of July weekend, and was eventually rescued by Two Bear Air from Whitefish.
Sergeant Bob Parcell from the Missoula County Sheriff's Office said the incident began with the first call to 9-1-1 at about 2:00 a.m. on Sunday.
"A 19 year-old man had left a group out of Lake Elsina and was going for a short fishing jaunt to Lake Dinah," Parcell said. "When he didn't return, the group sent search parties up the trail a bunch of times and couldn't find him.In the morning, we had the Seeley Swan Search and Rescue respond with two groups Usually, folks who get lost in that area get 'channelized' into the Marshall Canyon area, and that's exactly what happened. When another of our search parties went from the Marshall Lake area, they were finally able to get a visual on him, but they were over a mile away."
Parcell said the searchers noted that the missing man had lit a fire to signal potential rescuers.
"They watched him, and he was at a fire, and he kept feeding the fire," he said. "It wasn't like he was making a campfire, so they assumed it was a signal fire. Because of the rugged terrain, it was almost impossible to hike into the area. So, at that point we called in Two Bear Air from Flathead County and the sheriff up there was gracious enough to let us use them. They were able to get a visual on the individual, picked him up, and dropped him off at the warming hut up by Lake Elsina."
Parcell said the teen was in tough shape after his overnight ordeal.
"He was hurting," Parcell continued. "He had been out all night and didn't have much gear with him, since he was just going fishing, so he didn't have proper clothing, so he spent a fitful night there, and was very happy to get out."
The signal fires left behind by the lost hiker became the responsibility of the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. Spokesman Jordan Koppen said firefighters from the Clearwater were sent in to handle the fires.
"We had some firefighters from our Clearwater unit, right there by Seeley Lake," Koppen said. "They were helitacked into the area and took care of business with some bucket drops and took care of the fires, so a big shout out to them. They were up in the area all night taking care of those fires."
(Photos in the YouTube video from Two Bear Air Facebook page, taken by Andrew Novak)