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Lander teens found safely after a cold night in the mountains

Oct 4, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

The sons of two prominent Lander residents were the subject of a search and rescue operation initiated Wednesday evening above Sinks Canyon.

Tyson Sollars and George Case, both 18, were located in good condition at about 5:15 p.m. Thursday at the base of the "microwave towers" near Slate Creek, about three-quarters of a mile from the 2005 GMC pickup truck they had driven to the area.

Sheriff Skip Hornecker said the two had been setting up a hunting camp when they got separated from their vehicle Wednesday evening. Luckily, he said, they "had their wits about them" and were able to survive the cold night in the mountains.

"It was over 9,000 feet in elevation, (and) they were dumped on (by snow)," Hornecker said Friday. "They hunkered down under some rocks and started a fire and were able to shelter themselves that way."

When they were found Thursday evening, Hornecker said the young men seemed surprised to have been the subject of a search and rescue operation.

"They were just enjoying life," he said. "They were cold a little bit and obviously wet but in very good physical condition. ... It was really kind of like, 'Hey, we're OK. What are you doing out looking for us?'"

The search

Tyson Sollars's father Rick Sollars -- the city attorney for both Lander and Riverton -- had called the police at about 11:20 p.m. Wednesday when his son failed to come home from the mountains. The boys had been scheduled to return at about 9 p.m. Wednesday, according to initial reports.

A sheriff's deputy was dispatched to the Loop Road that evening in an attempt to find the boys, but Hornecker said weather conditions made it impossible to locate their vehicle.

"(The deputy) couldn't get close to it because of the snow," Hornecker said. "It was a total white out. He couldn't get more than two miles off the main highway."

Officials said they had hoped that the boys had taken shelter in their tent or their vehicle to wait for a break in the weather.

A search crew went out first thing Thursday morning under "real adverse" conditions, including rain, snow and muddy terrain. Hornecker said they found the pickup truck at about 11 a.m. Thursday.

"But (the subjects) were nowhere around," he said. "That concerned us. We ramped up the search considerably."

More than 45 people joined in the effort, using four "high-profile" sport utility vehicle units and several all-terrain vehicles. They also scoured the area on foot.

Hornecker said he also notified the Wyoming Division of Homeland Security in Cheyenne, and that agency placed a military helicopter equipped with forward-looking infrared radar on standby in case the weather cleared to allow for flight. A fixed-wing aircraft in Lander also was on standby during the operation.

The two were located at about 5:15 p.m. Thursday. Hornecker said they were examined by an emergency medical technician on scene, who determined they were in good physical condition.

Rick and Tyson Sollars were reunited on the mountain, Hornecker said, and Rick Sollars drove both boys back to town.

Hornecker said Wyoming Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, was happy to see his son safe at home.

"We've heard from both sets of parents," Hornecker said. "They're very relieved, as we all would be."

The pickup was removed from the area, and Hornecker said the search was officially over at about 8:15 p.m., when all rescue crews had been accounted for and had returned from the Loop Road.

He thanked everyone involved in the effort, which included the Fremont County Sheriff's Office, the Lander Police Department, Lander Search and Rescue, Riverton Search and Rescue, the National Outdoor Leadership School, the Wind River Off-Road Club, the Atlantic City Fire Department and numerous friends and family members.

"It's times like this that reaffirm why we all live in Fremont County," Hornecker said. "This is the kind of community where a group of people, both professionals and volunteers, come together without hesitation to help when they are needed."

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