Facebook Twitter

Lost snowmobilers share their mountain survival story

SHARE Lost snowmobilers share their mountain survival story

WEST VALLEY CITY — Brock Besner and Craig D'Allessandro were back home and back at work Wednesday after surviving three cold days and two frigid nights stranded in the mountains of Wasatch County.

On Wednesday the snowmobilers talked about what they did to survive.

Besner, 27, and D'Allessandro, 24, say their whole ordeal could have been avoided if they had just remembered two things: a cell phone and a beacon. Those items were in the truck, but they simply forgot to bring them along.

The pair were snowmobiling off Lake Creek Trailhead Sunday, an area they frequent sometimes as often as twice a week.

“We were just going out for quick ride,” Besner said. “We learned a quick ride can go bad real fast.”

Heavy fog threw them off the path, and the next thing they knew, the two were almost out of gas and lost. Instead of going west back to their vehicles, they went the opposite direction. They estimate they were 50 miles off course.

"We would follow those tracks thinking they would lead us out, but they led us in a circle because they were our tracks," Besner said.

Once they realized they'd have to spend the night in the wilderness, they found a grove of trees and decided to dig a shelter. The two broke branches off of nearby trees to use as firewood to stay warm. The spot, roughly 17 miles away from Heber in remote wilderness, became their home for three days and two nights.

The two started a fire, and split the beef jerky and water they had on them. It was so cold in their snow cave, they slept practically in the fire. Besner's faced is burned from the heat.

"Being able to build a fire under those conditions is quite incredible," said Wasatch County Sheriff Todd Bonner.

"We were talking to each other, shivering so bad our mouths were going open and closed as far as they could," D'Allessandro said.

“It was Monday night, the sun was about coming up and the storm was starting to clear, and I was like, ‘If the next couple days are like this, it is going to be rough,'” D’Allessandro recalled.

But while the nights were especially difficult, the two said they never panicked and always believed they "were fine."

"He told me he was scared at one point and I said, 'You can't think like that. You have to stay positive," Besner said of D'Allessandro.

Search and rescue teams say those two men did the right thing by building a snow shelter.

“As hard as it is, at some point, you’ve got to decide, 'I’m in trouble,'” said Joel Kohler, with Wasatch County Search and Rescue. “It’s time to make shelter and wait for help.”

The men also used plastic bottles to melt snow for water

"There was snow that was melting because of the fire and he caught some," D'Allessandro said. "Want to taste some bad water? Try burned snow."

They say the rest of the time was spent talking about their families and what they'd eat when they were rescued.

The two said they could hear helicopters and planes several times during their ordeal, but couldn't see them because of the weather. However, it was a Life Flight helicopter that spotted them Tuesday evening.

A short time later they were back with their families, shocked at the number of people who'd been searching for them.

"When I landed, I hugged my mom and was like, 'Who are all these people?' and she was like, 'All these people are here for you,'" recalled D'Allessandro.

During a press conference Wednesday, they expressed their gratitude to those people and the rescue crews.

Their snowmobiles and truck are still at the trailhead. They're not sure when they'll get them back. The ash the fire left behind at their makeshift shelter was still visible Wednesday on one of the snow walls, which also helped the men provide relief from the wind during their ordeal.

Search and rescue team members, like Kohler, went back to their regular jobs Wednesday. Wasatch County's team is all-volunteer, meaning when they look for missing people, they leave their regular jobs without pay. But they say finding missing people is payment enough.

"It's the greatest feeling in the world to be able to provide that assistance to someone really in need," Kohler said.

"They know what it's about — helping people. They thrive on it," Bonner said of the volunteers. "Without them, our sheriff's office, financially, couldn't afford it."

The team spent hundreds of man hours searching roughly 100 square miles the past three days. Last year, they volunteered on 51 searches.

Besner said his wife has put a stop to any new snowmobiling plans this weekend. They've agreed he'll take at least a couple of weeks off.

E-mail: acabrero@desnews.com