Woman Dies After Broken Snowmobiles Leave Family Stranded in Wyoming Wilderness

Heavy snow and strong winds forced the family to set up camp and the three built a snow cave and started a fire during the first night.

A Wyoming woman died of exposure and her 18-year-old son was severely frostbitten after the pair and the teen’s father were left stranded for three days in the mountains when their snowmobiles broke down, officials said.

The family was snowmobiling in the Snowy Mountain Range of the Medicine Bow Mountains when one of the three machines stopped on Saturday afternoon, Albany County Undersheriff Robert DeBree said in a news release.

Heavy snow and strong winds forced the family to set up camp. The three built a snow cave and started a fire during the first night, officials said.

The father made multiple attempts to get help for his family, but when he took a second snowmobile to find assistance, it became stuck in ice, police said.

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The father returned to his son and wife to take the last remaining snowmobile, but was left stranded and separated from them for the night when the third machine’s handlebars broke as he was riding, DeBree said.

Authorities said search teams came upon the father, who was in good health, on Monday.

All rescue teams looking for the family then focused their efforts on the general area where the father was found, until major ground blizzards brought their search to a halt.

The groups resumed their search at sunrise on Tuesday and at about 8 a.m. discovered the mother, who had died, and her seriously forstbitten son, DeBree said.

The son was taken to an awaiting Snow-Cat, and then brought to a Wyoming Air National Guard Helicopter that took him to Ivinson Memorial Hospital. He was last being treated at a Colorado hospital in stable condition, officials said.

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“He has a lot of frostbite,” DeBree said, according to the Associated Press.

Officials were not identifying the family. Both parents were 46.

The search, which involved two rescue helicopters and several snowmobiles, began after the daughter called at 11 a.m. Sunday to report her mother, father and brother did not come home after snowmobiling, according to reports.

Every winter thousands of snowmobilers traverse the Medicine Bow Mountains, many of them in less explored areas where avalanches and intense weather often occur.

Olympic gold medalist wrestler Rulon Gardner became stranded on his snowmobile, losing a toe to frostbite after he spent a night in the range in 2002.

By Monday, the weather was windy but clear and not too cold, allowing search teams to spread out while looking for the family, the AP wrote.   

Three other snowmobilers were found safe Monday after the group became stranded in the backcountry of western Colorado when two of their machines had mechanical problems, according to reports.

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