SAR Journal: Lost Hiker

My SAR team spent the last two days looking for a missing hiker from Rhode Island. We were all relieved to find him alive and unhurt; the picture below shows the scale of the area.

Somebody commented that our county is bigger than the subject’s entire home state, so I looked it up. If Wikipedia is correct, Park County is 6,969 square miles (largely undeveloped) and the state of Rhode Island is 1,212 square miles. Wow.

looking out over part of the search area

looking out over part of the search area


Press Release from Park County Sheriff’s Office
(the following pictures were provided by the Sheriff’s Office)

A missing hiker from Rhode Island was found alive and well yesterday afternoon (Sept. 24) at 1:54 p.m. by Park County Search and Rescue in the Pagoda Creek drainage of the North Fork of the Shoshone National Forest. Nolan Reifsteck, age 18 of Wakefield, Rhode Island had been missing since 7:30 a.m. Tuesday morning.

Reifsteck was camping with his sister at the Wapiti Campground, when he left alone to take a short hike before they set out to visit Yellowstone National Park. He was first reported missing later that afternoon by the Wapiti Campground host. Reifsteck did not give an indication of where he was going and it was unknown if he took food or water with him.

The Park County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue (SAR) were immediately deployed and began searching the area to the north of the campground. The search had to be temporarily postponed due to darkness. SAR teams were again deployed Wednesday morning at first light.

photo by Park County Sheriff's Office

photo provided by Park County Sheriff’s Office

SAR began searching the Elk Fork area including the Grace Creek drainage. Canine search units had shown some interest in that area. Ground units were aided by a SAR aircraft as well as a fixed wing aircraft from the Civil Air Patrol and a Blackhawk helicopter with forward looking infrared (FLIR) capabilities from Charlie Company 5-159, Wyoming Army National Guard out of Cheyenne.

Blackhawk landing near Staging -- photo provided by Park County Sheriff's Office

Blackhawk landing near Staging — photo provided by Park County Sheriff’s Office

SAR teams began finding articles of clothing this morning that had been discarded by Reifsteck as he wandered through the back country along a steep ridge to the south. They discovered his hat and jacket approximately ¾ miles from the campground and his long underwear another ½ mile to the east. They also discovered bare foot prints assumingly belonging to Reifsteck. All of these items lead searchers to the Pagoda Creek drainage where they eventually located him. He was somewhat disoriented and dehydrated but otherwise uninjured. He was treated by West Park Ambulance Wilderness Medical Team personnel and released to his parents who had flown in to Cody earlier.

Sheriff Scott Steward once again praised the efforts of the SAR volunteers. “During the search, tragically we had a horse fall into a deep ravine,” commented Steward. “The horse sustained a severe head injury but thank goodness the rider was able to dismount before the fall. But this is an example of why there’s no such thing as a routine back country rescue. Our volunteers risk their own safety every time they go out and we’re grateful for their efforts.”

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