With snow falling and sub-freezing temperatures dropping, the search for a 66-year-old woman lost in a densely wooded area south of Butte was becoming more desperate as the hours passed.
“But if we didn’t find her that night, we didn’t think we’d find her alive in the morning,” said Brad Belke, the commander of the 15/90 Search and Rescue in Butte.
Members of Butte’s 15/90 Search and Rescue began searching about 8 p.m. Wednesday after a couple went hiking earlier that afternoon and got separated in a wooded area off Roosevelt Drive.
The husband called 911 after he couldn’t find his wife and two dogs.
“She was woefully unprepared for this kind of weather: no matches, no fire, no flashlight. She lost her phone during the time she was lost,” said Belke.
A team of 35 searchers combed through rough terrain, in freezing temperatures and falling snow. It wasn’t until about 3 o’clock the next morning when they heard her dogs barking and found her sitting on a log.
“She was very, very cold. I think she got a lot of support from the two dogs she had with her,” said Belke.
So this is the kind of challenging terrain that the search and rescue team was dealing with. They were crawling under all sorts of dead fall, negotiating around boulders on this very unstable terrain. All of this while it was snowing and in complete darkness.
“The guys, the younger guys, were telling me this was the most physical excursion they’d ever seen on a search or a hunting party,” said Belke.