HEBER CITY — A Heber City man who became stuck while snowmobiling in a remote area of Wasatch County was rescued Tuesday after four days of crawling through deep snow and eating nothing but snow for survival.
David C. Hales, 60, who owns a cabin in the Timberlakes area on the far east side of the county, was found by Wasatch County search and rescue crews on Tuesday morning. Wasatch County Chief Sheriff's Deputy Jared Rigby said despite temperatures dropping into the teens and single digits each night, Hales was found in "relatively good health," and was taken to a local hospital to be treated for minor injuries, including hypothermia.
Hales' adventure began Friday, either late afternoon or evening, after he got done fixing a neighbor's snowmobile. He went out for a ride to test out the snowmobile and intended to be gone only 30 minutes, Rigby said.
From the Timberlakes area, Hales went into the Lake Creek region and crossed the Strawberry River into a drainage area, he said.
"It's a big drainage, it's a big area," Rigby said.
It was there that the snowmobile suffered a mechanical problem — either running out of gas or getting stuck in the snow — and wouldn't go anymore.
"He went down into an area he couldn't get back out of," Rigby said.
Originally, police said Hales "made a wrong turn" and because of the deep snow, could not turn around.
Friday night and Saturday night, Hales told deputies he slept under a pine tree. Rigby said Hales was somewhat prepared for the elements.
"He was in a snow coat and pants and boots, But no gloves from what I'm aware of," he said. "He said he got by on eating snow."
On Sunday, Hales attempted to walk out of the area. But he struggled through the waist-deep snow, Rigby said.
"He had to crawl most of the way because the snow is deep and when he would stand up and walk, he would fall through it, and it would hit him high and he would be stuck, and he would have to crawl," he said.
Rigby did not know Tuesday if Hales had a cellphone with him, but noted there is no reception in the area he was in.
Hales attempted to crawl downhill toward Strawberry Reservoir.
By the end of Sunday, Hales had managed only to go 2 miles. Because of the difficult terrain, Hales did not attempt to crawl through the snow again on Monday, according to Rigby.
By 8 p.m. Monday, Hales' son called the sheriff's office to report that his father, who lives alone, was missing. Search and rescue crews from the Wasatch County and Summit County sheriff's offices, and the Utah Department of Public Safety participated in the effort to find Hales.
Deputies also went to his Timberlakes cabin and discovered that Hales dog had not been fed for several days.
The search was called off about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday. It resumed later in the morning and about 9:45 a.m., two helicopter pilots spotted Hales near the Strawberry River drainage area about 8 miles away from state Route 40, he said.
Rigby said Tuesday afternoon that investigators were still trying to retrace Hales' steps to figure out where he spent each night.