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Rescue workers respond to false request for emergency assistance

Jul 26, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Search and rescue volunteers "weren't all that impressed" with a man who reportedly made a false request for emergency help Tuesday evening.

The Fremont County Sheriff's Office received a call at about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday from a Colorado woman asking for help with her 39-year-old husband who was backpacking and fly fishing in the Wind River Mountains. According to reports, she has received a satellite text message from the man stating, "Help!!! I am alive something is terribly wrong send help immediately."

The message included the man's location, indicating that he was in Silas Canyon near Island Lake.

Two search and rescue volunteers and one paramedic were dispatched to the area via helicopter at about 10 p.m., Undersheriff Ryan Lee said Wednesday. But when they found the subject, identified as Josh Arnold, they said he was not in distress.

"He told his rescuers that he did not need help," Lee said in a press release. "(He) acknowledged sending random messages, and it was determined that he misused the emergency device for an unknown reason."

He said the rescue crew didn't "stick around" to ask the man about his motives.

"They got out of there and went home to their families," Lee said.

Risks

Lee noted that the Tuesday incident put flight crews and volunteers in "a dangerous situation."

"(They were) flying in mountainous terrain in complete darkness with the aid of night vision," Lee said in a press release. "We are lucky to have such dedicated personnel in Fremont County willing to take these risks in an effort to help others."

He said the employees and volunteers take their jobs seriously and will continue to err on the side of caution when they hear reports like the one Tuesday.

"There is no way to call these people back or send messages asking further questions," Lee said. "We have to take what we are told at face value and make the decision to help or stand down."

He added that the man's wife made the report to law enforcement "in good faith something was wrong."

"The message given was rather explicit, (so) we took it as a very serious deal," he said.

The county gets reimbursed by the state for search and rescue operations, and Lee doubted that Arnold would be billed for the expenses incurred Tuesday evening.

"To my knowledge we've never successfully done that," Lee said.

The sheriff's office organizes multiple search and rescue operations every year, covering more than 9,000 square miles of land annually with three volunteer groups stationed in Lander, Dubois and Riverton, according to a press release.

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Fremont Co. Sheriff's Office