OROVILLE – The combined efforts of several agencies and search and rescue aided in locating three adults and a child lost in the high country near the Canadian Border.
It wasn’t immediately known why the group had crossed into the U.S. from Canada, but it was believed they could have been Mexican Nationals, according to early reports. One of the rescued said they had been camping, but reaction from some of those gathered at Oroville’s Dorothy Scott Memorial Airport where they had been transported by Naval helicopter made it clear they found that hard to believe, especially with a four-year-old child.
All four, two men, a woman and the child, appeared to be suffering the effects of several rainy, cold nights in the wilderness. A member of the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station Black Hawk helicopter Search and Rescue crew that located them said he believed the young woman was suffering most from hypothermia.
All four of the recovered were transported by Oroville ambulance to North Valley Hospital in Tonasket for treatment for exposure.
Okanogan County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Blake said the Sheriff’s Office had been contacted by authorities in Canada to say they had received a cell call from a member of the group stating they were lost and in need of rescue.
“Apparently, last Friday morning at about 6 a.m., they climbed to a high point until they had cell service and that went to a Canadian tower. They said they were most concerned about the child. The Canadian authorities investigated and turned it over to us when they realized they had likely crossed into the U.S.,” said Blake. “It was such a wide area to check, because of the coverage of that cell tower, it took awhile before they could get a fix on where they were probably calling from.”
Members of the Naval SAR helicopter crew said they had spotted the four people in the Mt. Chopaka area, but were unable to land in the rugged terrain. The crew lowered a basket 100 feet and brought each up to the helicopter by cable. The crew also reported to the Border Patrol that they had spotted three other adults who were heading north and might have been trying to cross back into Canada.
At the airport, U.S. Border Patrol Agents said no charges were being levied against the adults for crossing into the U.S. at this time. They said more information would need to be obtained before any decision could be made along those lines. Agents planned on questioning the adults at the hospital.
“Whether charges are pending… that depends on the interviews,” said USBP Agent Fred Bauman, who was heading to North Valley Hospital to gather more information.
In addition to the sheriff’s office, U.S. Border Patrol, county Search and Rescue and the Naval Search and Rescue team, several agencies were alerted to aid in the Search and Rescue mission, according to Blake. The effort had help from, state Fish and Wildlife, the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Posse, state Department of Transportation Air Search and Rescue and Oroville Ambulance, Blake said.
“For equipment we had four-wheel drives, ATVs, horses, the helicopter and a fixed wing aircraft,” said Blake. “We have a great Search and Rescue organization. They are well trained and a good resource and they show it.”