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Copter crews rescue stranded hunters

Deep snow trapped two parties in North Idaho mountains

A missing Post Falls man and his teenage daughter were located by an Air Force rescue crew in a remote section of North Idaho on Thursday morning just before the crew was dispatched to a second forest site where four people were stranded near Grangeville.

All six were trapped from heavy snow that struck the mountains Monday night and Tuesday, officials said.

Matthew Gering, 37, and Kia Gering, 14, had been missing for three days after they went on a hunting trip in the mountains of Shoshone County in an area known as Unit 6, which also covers parts of Benewah, Latah and Clearwater counties.

They were supposed to check in with relatives Monday night but didn’t, a Shoshone County dispatcher said. They survived by eating elk meat from a fresh kill and sleeping in their pickup truck, which was stuck in the snow but still running.

A crew from Fairchild Air Force Base’s 36th Rescue Flight found the pair around 9:30 a.m. Thursday. The father and daughter were in the Mammoth Springs area at an elevation of 6,400 feet about 15 air miles southeast of Avery. They were in good condition, the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office said.

“They were really just happy to see us,” said Tech. Sgt. Joseph Brownell, a medic with the 36th Rescue Flight.

Capt. Mark Morales, who flew one of the helicopters involved in the rescue, said both rescues went smoothly.

“They went well,” he said. “We found them a lot more quickly than we thought we would.”

The hunting trip was in celebration of Kia’s 14th birthday, Fairchild officials reported.

As the crew was finishing up that rescue, they were dispatched to a campsite where four hunters and their dog were stranded in two feet of snow in the mountains out of Grangeville.

After refueling, the crew found the campers, and dropped a medic to stay at the camp with the dog while the four people were taken to Grangeville, said Master Sgt. Joseph Buzanowski, Fairchild spokesman.

A second helicopter was dispatched to retrieve the medic, the dog and some of the campers’ gear. Weight concerns caused the need for the second helicopter, officials said.

Without the helicopters, it would have taken four hours to reach the group by snowmobile, and then the rescue would have been difficult on the return trip, Buzanowski said.

“Six lives saved. These guys do great work,” Buzanowski said.

The crew has saved eight people and one dog in less than a week.

Heavy snow was reported across the mountains of North Idaho on Monday night and early Tuesday after a winter storm warning had been issued by the National Weather Service.

In the mountains near Clarkia in Shoshone County, the weather service reported that 16 inches of snow had fallen by early Tuesday.

The Gerings were flown to a landing area west of Avery where they were reunited with family members.

In addition to being mired in deep snow, their vehicle also had a flat tire, the sheriff’s office said. Gering had no tire wrench.

The sheriff’s office said in a news release that Gering “did the smart thing by staying with the vehicle.”

The sheriff’s office repeated a caution to hunters and others going to the outdoors to inform let family or friends know of plans, destinations and return times.

Joining Morales and Brownell in the Fairchild crew were 1st Lt. Lauren Robillard, co-pilot; Staff Sgt. Joshua Abbey, flight engineer; and Master Sgt. Joseph Noone, medic.

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