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Dinosaur National Monument: Snowbound Couple Rescued From Fire Tower

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avatar Dinosaur National Monument: Snowbound Couple Rescued From Fire Tower
April 29, 2009 11:40PM
Snowbound Couple Rescued From Fire Tower

Shawn Salsman, 26, and April Witt, 28, were reported missing on the evening of Saturday, April 25th, when they failed to return home after an outing to Brown’s Park National Wildlife Refuge, which adjoins the park on the north. The call came in to Moffat County, which began an active search on Sunday morning. Dave McGhee, the ranger at Lodore, was contacted around 7:30 a.m. and asked to help with the search. McGhee realized that he’d spoken to the couple at Lodore on Saturday at about 1:30 p.m., when they’d asked him about fishing opportunities. This information led searchers to concentrate on river access points. The weather was cold and windy, with wet, heavy snow making road access very difficult. At about 11 a.m., a dispatcher in Craig received a partial cell phone call and was able to narrow the search to an area on the shoulder of Zenobia Peak, the highest point in the park. A later 911 call from the couple confirmed that they had gotten their truck stuck in deep snow on Zenobia, and that they’d then abandoned the truck and were en route cross-country with their two dogs towards a visible cabin (Zenobia fire tower) some distance above them atop the peak. The dispatcher advised them to return to their vehicle and not climb further up the mountain, but Salsman and Witt elected to continue traveling cross-country towards the unoccupied fire tower. Their vehicle was located at about 3 p.m., and searchers began tracking the couple through snow up to waist deep in near white-out conditions. Meanwhile, the couple reached the fire tower, broke in, started the propane, cooked dinner, and took a nap. A full-sized four-wheel-drive NPS truck was unable to access the tower due to snow, but Moffat County searchers eventually reached it at about 5 p.m. on ATVs and evacuated the couple and their dogs. They were transferred to the NPS vehicle, transported down the mountain, and treated for mild hypothermia by Maybell Ambulance.
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