31 Dec 2006 - 1 Jan 2007  

Search for stranded motorists  Southeastern Colorado


Above is a picture of the stranded trucker that we (Jer/ Eberhard, Dave Zimmerman, and Bill O'Connor) found on the sortie we flew on Sunday as part of the Civil Air Patrol mission.

Unfortunately the truck was in a location between two hills that made it impossible to get a close shot from the side as we were right over it as we made the pass to let the driver know we saw him. You can see the tracks to the rear of the truck where the driver obviously attempted to walk out, then wisely decided to go back to the truck. If you look close, you can also see where he stamped out an SOS in the snow a short distance behind the truck.

The sighting was made as we were parallel searching along route 109 that goes south from La Junta. We spotted what at first looked like a stranded school bus. As we flew over it we saw it was a "K-line Company" truck with tracks that went nowhere. Unless the driver was rescued very early in the storm, he was still there. On the second pass, when I took the picture, the driver had climbed up on the cab and was flashing a light at us. So, cycling the prop and wiggling the wings, Jer/ let the driver know we saw him or her (we don't know which) and climbed up so we could call BM7 and the Army Guard. The Guard had helicopters in the area that we had been talking to and relaying messages for.

The Guard coordinator assigned a helicopter to the mission and Jer/ transmitted the coordinates. The Guard pilot eventually gave us an eta of 20-25 minutes. We dropped back down and made a few more passes to let the driver know we really did see him or her.

Rather than wait around and waste time, since we could not do anything more, we continued searching. About 40 minutes later we were back in the area on another leg and flew over the truck to see if there was a pick up. There was a big area where the snow was blown off the road when the helicopter landed to pick up the driver. The Guard also called to say that they evacuated the driver directly to La Junta Hospital.

The truck could not have been in a worse spot. It was 20+ miles from the nearest plowed road with no ranches nearby to see the stranded truck. The snow was way too deep to walk out. If the truck had not been spotted from the air, the driver would not have been rescued in a timely manner. The other fortunate thing was the cooperation between the Army Guard units and CAP. We spotted for them rather than waste valuable helicopter time searching. We all operated on a common frequency with CAP coordinating the targets to investigate and/or rescue.

All the hard work and time spent in training in CAP pays off when we are called into a real emergency situation. Knowing you helped someone who might have died if CAP was not there is the reward for the time spent in training. The other satisfying aspect of this event was the close cooperation of the professionals in the Army Guard units that relied on CAP to do its job of searching for folks that they could help and/or rescue.

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