FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Missing Snowmobiler Found After Overnight Search Near Telluride
Contact: San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters 970-729-2025 or Public Information Officer Susan Lilly 970-729-2028
January 4, 2016 -- (Telluride, CO) – A vacationing snowmobiler was found safe and uninjured following an exhaustive 13 hour-overnight search by San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office’s Search and Rescue members.
The 45 year-old man, Charles Nelson Ditmore, of Oakland, California told Sheriff’s deputies that he started his recreational snowmobile journey alone on Sunday at 2pm from a Browns Ranch home where he was staying with relatives. He was due to return before dark, and when he did not answer or return multiple cellphone calls, family members became increasingly concerned and placed a 9-1-1 call just before midnight Sunday night.
A San Miguel Country Sheriff’s Deputy was dispatched to the home (approximately 10 miles West of Telluride) and traced the snow mobile tracks from the driveway, down a county road, and then hiked into US Forest Service land to confirm the suspected route the man traveled. Meantime, deputies were trying to “ping” Mr. Ditmore’s cellphone in an attempt to determine his location but ended up with numerous false indications of its location. Later Mr. Ditmore told Sheriff’s deputies that his cellphone battery had died at around 12:30am.
Unable to locate or communicate with Mr. Ditmore and with temperatures steadily dropping, Sergeant Mike Westcott, Incident Commander, decided at around 2am to organize and dispatch a hasty team. Two deputies and one Search and Rescue (SAR) volunteer gathered necessary safety gear and equipment and launched into the backcountry on three snow machines at approximately 4am from the Iron Springs Mesa area where Incident Command had established a staging area for the rescue mission.
Soon after sunrise, additional Sheriff’s deputies and search and rescue personnel were dispatched and more SAR volunteers were placed on stand-by.
A private aircraft owned and piloted by a SAR member took Sheriff’s Deputy Chris White on a two-hour grid search before it returned to refuel.
A Helitrax helicopter was then launched and covered nearly a hundred miles in its grid search.
In total, aircraft flew for nearly three and one-half hours covering several hundred miles.
“We saw literally hundreds of tracks not knowing which one was his, we spent hours chasing tracks,” Deputy White said.
Then, just before 1pm, a US Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer, who was assisting in the search, spotted and stopped Mr. Ditmore who was travelling south near Iron Springs Mesa, just minutes away from the staging area and the Browns Ranch Home where he was staying.
Mr. Ditmore stated that his snowmobile became stuck in deep snow in a ravine at approximately 4pm Sunday and that he “spent all night” digging a trail up hill and out, with a small, collapsible shovel, moving his snowmobile a few feet at a time as he established a path.
He later showed deputies on a map where he traveled, and where he became stuck which was near Paradox Road in Ouray County, north of Divide Road on the Uncompahgre Plateau, at least seven miles outside of the area aircraft searched.
Deputies also learned that while Mr. Ditmore knew the route he planned on taking, he never told anyone where he was going.
“If he would have told someone what his plans were, we could have located him in far less time with far fewer resources,” Sergeant Westcott said.
The man was not carrying a rescue beacon or any other effective backcountry communication device. And although snowmobile registration includes possible Search and Rescue fees, San Miguel Sheriff Bill Masters said this mission was completed at great expense, and early in the season.
“We spent a lot of money on aircraft and manpower hours to find him, and that could have and should have been avoided,” Sheriff Masters said.
Sheriff Masters strongly advises all those who plan on venturing into the backcountry carry rescue notification devices as well as a “CORSCAR” (Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue) card. Also be prepared with appropriate gear, clothing, food and water in case of an unplanned overnight in the backcountry.
For more information on CORSCAR cards and how to purchase visit the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue (CORSAR) Card page.
The San Miguel Sheriff’s Office, located in Telluride, Colorado and established in 1883, serves 7,800 residents and countless visitors across the 1,288 square miles of San Miguel County. Sheriff Bill Masters has been serving as the county’s elected Sheriff since 1980.