DNR Conservation Officers share details of lengthy rescue

ONTONAGON COUNTY, Mich. (WLUC) - After a deadly weekend on the trails some good news in Ontonagon County as four lost snowmobilers were saved, thanks to the efforts of several law enforcement officials.

Around 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, four snowmobilers out of a group of eight were reported missing in Ontonagon County. The call came into Negaunee Regional Dispatch, and the U.S. Forest Service and Michigan DNR jumped into action.

"You're playing everything through in your mind of what's going to happen and the biggest thing is to stay dry and warm,” said DNR conservation officer Zach Painter. “We knew that we were prepared with our winter survival kits and we might have to spend the night in the woods and keep everybody warm."

DNR Conservation Officers Jenni Hanson and Painter, who are experienced in rescue missions around the Porcupine Mountains began their search on the Big Iron River near White Pine.

"It was unsafe for us to ride the snowmobiles up the river, so we set off on snowshoes,” said Hanson. “At times the river was slushy, and our feet would fall in here and there."

Around 10 p.m., they finally found the four stuck snowmobilers, who were making their way up the river as well. The group had been out in the elements for nearly 12 hours at that point.

"They were very relieved to see us and we provided them with food and water and warm and dry hats and gloves and they needed it," said Hanson.

Both officers credit the training they received at the academy for the success of this mission.

"Mentally and physically, teaching us the skills and then actually utilizing those skills out in the field when necessary it's very rewarding," said Hanson.

After hiking several miles they were able to get the lost snowmobilers to safety with just minor injuries. They hope this serves as a warning for future snowmobilers in the area.

“If you're not experienced, know your level,” said Painter. “Don't go off into some of these treacherous areas if you're not prepared to do it, if you don't have the experience in doing it."

Assisting Officers Hanson and Painter was Officer Josh Lopac of the U.S. Forest Service, the Ontonagon County Sheriff's Department, Michigan State Police, and several volunteers.

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