PRINEVILLE, OR -- After deputies spent eight hours searching for people missing in the Ochocos, the overdue subjects walked out on their own. According to the Crook County Sheriff's Office, a person drove into the Ochoco Mountains at about 6 a.m. Monday and was supposed to return by noon. When they still hadn't been seen by 8 p.m., family called 911.
Search and Rescue teams deployed to the area in rainy, muddy and foggy conditions. Early the next morning, officials learned another motorist was also missing in the same area. While SAR teams were organizing to add to the effort, the missing people walked to an area with cell service and "self-rescued."
CCSO says a total of three groups got stuck in in the mud in the same area and waited out the weather until walking out the next morning. The agency urges, "Please, when going into the woods, have a plan, communicate your plan and stick with your plan."
This was the agency's 24th search and rescue mission of the year.
Crook County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Mitch Madden tells KBND News it’s been a busy winter rescue season, “This year for whatever reason we’re seeing an increase in search and rescue missions out in the Ochocos. I’m not sure what the reason is other than people are wanting to go out and enjoy the public land.”
Madden partially blames the weather for so many calls this year, “With the increased snow pack for this time of year, the ground out in the Ochocos is fairly saturated so anybody may be easily become bogged down in the mud, and stuck.” That could lead to more calls with the approaching summer season. He says they’re prepared, “We have some very dedicated members. Any sort of search and rescue mission that comes up they’re ready to go. Even to the point of suffering from complete exhaustion as the result of the search and rescue mission.”