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Snowmobilers’ rescue efforts to be celebrated

But important lessons can be learned from the experience

Last week’s editorial on the importance of search and rescue, as well as the opinion piece penned by Dale Knutsen from his perspective as the husband of a Search and Rescue volunteer, proved to be prophetic. Who could have known that as the paper was going to press, a search and rescue effort would actually be under way.

Two Lake Almanor area men would spend three nights in the Lakes Basin area near Graeagle before being rescued by a group of friends, family and volunteers. Their efforts saved the men’s lives. It is doubtful that they could have survived another night in the extreme weather.

Their ordeal began Sunday afternoon, Feb. 24, when one of their snowmobiles became stuck. The Plumas County Sheriff’s Dispatch records present a clear timeline of when their spouses reported them missing and the subsequent efforts of law enforcement and search and rescue to ascertain their location. Through their wives, who contacted them via cell phone, the men declined assistance from Search and Rescue multiple times because they said they could get out on their own accord.

However weather conditions deteriorated drastically Monday and they were unable to do so. Initially, the men declined help from search and rescue, but then the Sheriff declined to send the team in when it was deemed too dangerous. Family and friends organized their own rescue effort, and, with members of the Graeagle Fire Department and other volunteers, attempted to locate the men on Tuesday, but they, too had to turn back. A third attempt on Wednesday proved successful and both men are recuperating from the incident.

This is a story with a happy ending, but one that has blown up to something sad on social media. Sheriff Greg Hagwood has come under fire for holding Search and Rescue back, but he did so out of concern for the team that also is made up of volunteers. Members of the Graeagle Fire Department, who often assist Search and Rescue, and who themselves went in twice, acknowledged the dangerous conditions that they and the other volunteers faced. If the men had accepted help immediately, all of this could have been averted.

Last week’s opinion piece penned by the husband of a Search and Rescue volunteer said that they respond to about 100 calls per year. There are always going to be such calls for help as we live in an area where nature beckons and individuals find themselves in precarious situations. Let’s just all realize that help is out there, and though we may be inclined to think that we can take care of ourselves, we should accept help from the experts.

This is a story that has a happy ending. Two men were able to return to their families and no other lives were harmed in the process. Let’s celebrate that.

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