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Crews pull out all the stops during searches

The snowboarder who was recently rescued by Jackson County Search and Rescue makes me wonder what assets they use to locate a person lost in the mountains. I don’t believe just skiing around the hills looking for someone would be very productive. I wonder if they employ drones or helicopters to help find missing persons and how they operate when they encounter reduced visibility.

— Alex, Central Point

Wonder no more, Alex.

We reached out to Sgt. Shawn Richards, who is with the Jackson County Sheriff Office’s Search and Rescue division, and he set us straight on their efforts whenever crews are looking for a snowboarder or, you know, anybody else.

Long story short: They use everything at their disposal, Richards says.

“We use every asset we have available to us for any person lost or in need of rescue in the out of doors,” Richards told us in an email. “During winter conditions, we don’t do anything any different than we do any other time of the year, with the exception of changing out our personal gear so we can search effectively in cold weather conditions and treat the person in need once we find them.”

Richards also detailed how a search and rescue goes down on Mt. Ashland, which is where the incident you described in your inquiry happened.

Search-and-rescue crews and members of the Mt. Ashland Ski Patrol carry out a search of the ski park and the ski park boundary, searching for tracks to determine whether the person went out of bounds.

Searchers also make attempts to pinpoint the missing person’s cellphone and hunt for records of possible cellphone use.

When searchers find tracks, a team is sent to follow them while other teams are sent to search area containment.

“These assets include searchers on skis, snowshoes, snowmobiles, sno-cats, ATVs and aviation assets,” Richards said, adding those tools extend to drones, planes and helicopters.

“Once we know someone is in need, there is a seamless effort to locate them and effect a rescue,” Richards said.

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