Four rescued off Steens

Posted on December 19th in News

The Oregon National Guard helicopter arrived at the Burns airport about the same time the four men were reached by rescuers on the ground.
Photo by RANDY PARKS

Cell tower workers spent three nights on mountain

 
On Dec. 15 at approximately 4:30 p.m., Harney County 9-1-1 received a call from four construction workers who were installing a cell tower at the summit of Steens Mountain. The workers stated they were stuck in their snow cat near the summit due to deep snow and zero visibility. The workers were instructed to stay with their vehicle, which had adequate fuel to stay warm for several hours.
 
Harney County Search and Rescue, with several members of the Harney County Snowmobile Club, was activated and staged in Frenchglen. They made an assault on the mountain in the morning hours of Dec. 16. After attempting for several hours, they were unable to reach the summit due to winds up to 70 mph, blowing snow and fog.
 
The Oregon National Guard was contacted regarding the availability of a helicopter to assist the rescue. The workers walked to a radio building located near the summit for protection. The building had a generator and heat. They had cell phones and were able to communicate with others.
 
On Dec. 17, the severe winter storms continued on the mountain. Another attempt to reach the workers was made by the snowmobilers. They were again turned back by the weather and zero visibility on the mountain. The helicopter was unable to travel to Burns because of the weather.
 
On the morning of Dec. 18, the weather broke for a few hours. The Harney County Snowmobile Club again started up the mountain. The Oregon National Guard helicopter departed Salem at 8 a.m. en route to Burns.
 
At 9:30 a.m. that morning, the snowmobilers were able to reach the summit and transport the workers to a snow groomer, which transported them to Lily Lake where search and rescue personnel had four-wheel-drive vehicles. The National Guard helicopter arrived in Burns just minutes before the rescue.
 
The workers were hungry and tired from spending three uncomfortable nights on the mountain, but were in good health. Their snow cat was left on the mountain and should be able to be recovered in July of next year.
 
The workers were identified as Jeff Brown, 48, of Juneau, Alaska; Brandon Seaver, 36, of Tigard; Jeffery Syversen, 49, of Tillamook; and Ray Syversen, 48, of Tillamook.
 
Steens Mountain has the highest navigable road in the state of Oregon. It is not uncommon to have severe winter storms, sometimes starting as early as September, in which several feet of snow can fall in a 24-hour period.


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