SEQUIM — Two tribal hunters and three Kitsap County residents were marooned in snowstorm-related strandings Wednesday that sparked efforts by search teams and an off-road vehicle club that found them.
Port Gamble S’Klallam tribal members Barry Fulton, 41, and Daniel Decoteau, 45, were discovered cold, wet and hungry but safe shortly after 8 p.m. Wednesday west of Lake Crescent, said Brian King, Clallam County chief criminal deputy.
County search-and-rescue and Clallam Corrections Center inmate recovery teams found the pair, who had spent five hours in terrain covered with 1½-2 feet of snow in a windswept, forested area, King said.
“Certainly, survivability was a major concern, given weather conditions,” he said.
Ethan Bales, Jordan Olson and Rachel Seidel of Kitsap County, whom King estimated were in their 20s, were confined to a pickup truck for more than 27 hours between about 11 a.m. Tuesday morning and early Wednesday afternoon.
Their Toyota Tacoma extended-cab pickup became stuck in 2-3 feet of snow on a U.S. Forest Service road in the Palo Alto Road area about 15 miles southeast of Sequim.
King said the trio had food, water, and a half-tank of gas. He said friends tried rescuing them before they, too, got stuck and had to turn around.
They were plucked to safety by members of Top Shelf Wheelers ORC, a member of the four-wheel-drive vehicle club said.
Four Top Shelf members in two vehicles found them. Three more club members were on their way.
Ben Vance, joined by Joe Smalley, Jeb Abernathy and Fred Patton pulled their vehicle out of the snow.
“We got them, and they’re right behind us,” Vance said as the mini-caravan drove to safety at about 2:30 p.m. Thursday.
“They were fine.”
The driver of the pickup truck was 21 years old, said Patton, who was in contact with the driver’s brother.
“We had to push through a 5-foot-tall snow drift to be able to keep going,” Patton recalled.
A Clallam County search-and-rescue team also aided in the effort.
Fulton and Decoteau, pursuing elk on U.S. Forest Service land, carried snacks and water but did not have a compass, King said.
They lost their sense of direction after dark in windy, frigid conditions a half-mile south of Mary Clark Road and 0.8 miles west of Cooper Ranch Road, King said.
The pair were found a quarter-mile from their car.
They called 9-1-1 at 6:32 p.m.
The men were located shortly after 8 p.m. Wednesday by Sheriff’s Deputy Sean Hoban and an inmate recovery team member near an abandoned road grade.
Hoban and the recovery team member found Fulton and Decoteau after their general location was obtained from their cellphone data.
“They were able to make voice contact once they got to their last known location, and they were able to walk the hunters out of there,” King said.
King said had the men not had a cellphone in an area where reception is spotty, “we’d have been out there for days, maybe” looking for them.
The men were hunting in about 1½ feet of snow, and wind speeds grew to 60 mph.
“As soon as it’s dark, those forests are canopies,” King said.
“It would have been a very difficult night.
“If they would have had a compass and travelled due north, they would have reached their vehicle or at least the roadway in a relatively short period of time.”
Forks-area Clallam County Fire District 1 emergency crews were called out for the rescue at 7:32 p.m., but by the time they arrived, county rescuers had found the men, Fire Chief Bill Paul said.
“They left their vehicle tracking an animal and got lost,” Paul said.
“The men were pretty much out in the middle of nowhere.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].