Missing snowmobilers found by another father-son duo
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
BOUNTIFUL — A father and son missing almost 24 long, cold hours were found safe Thursday afternoon by another father and son helping with the search.
Centerville resident Robert Sutton and his 15-year-old son, Cole, were snowmobiling above the Bountiful bench when a storm rolled in and they became lost. They were stranded on the mountain Wednesday night, with a dead cellphone and no avalanche beacons.
Sutton and his son were found safe near the Tunnel Mine Loop by Kevin Sundh and his 16-year-old son, Nate, who frequently snowmobile in the area.
"When I heard it was a father and son, it was something that I felt like I needed to go up for," Sundh said. "If it ever happened to my son, I hope someone would come looking for us."
Though the Sundhs weren't able to officially join the search, rescue workers told them they were welcome to snowmobile in the area and let officials know if anything turned up.
Sundh said as he and his son combed the area Thursday afternoon, they decided to ride up a ridge searchers hadn't climbed yet. On the other side, they could see tracks headed down into an area not many people enter. They found the Suttons at the bottom.
Officials said the rescued father and son were cold but otherwise healthy and uninjured when they were brought off the mountain about 5 p.m.
"I survived, so I'm doing good," Cole said with a smile. "It was a great experience. … I thought it was a lot of fun."
Tears, hugs and excited phone calls were shared as family and friends waiting below on Skyline Drive got word that the Suttons had been located and were on their way back.
When he reached the group, Cole was quick to hug his cousins and greet his grandmother with a casual, "Hi, Grandma. How are you?"
Despite encouragement from searchers throughout the day, Cole's grandmother, Barbara Selleneit, said relief didn't come until she heard the pair had been found.
"Every hour that went by and they couldn't find them was one hour closer to dark," Selleneit said. "We're thrilled."
Cole lives in San Diego with his mother, who was about to board a plane and head to Utah when she got the news her son was safe. Family members were standing by with a cellphone so the teen could let his mother know he had made it down the mountain.
Cole said his first priority was checking in with his mom. The second was a big meal.
When a storm had closed in on the Suttons Wednesday afternoon and limited their visibility, Cole said he and his father dropped down into a small canyon to try to get out of the clouds. But with no GPS, they couldn't find their way out.
They stayed in the area overnight, and when early morning temperatures became unbearable, they burned one of the snow machines to try and get warm, Cole said. As they heard but didn't see search teams throughout the day, they considered burning the second snowmobile to signal their location.
Cole credited his father with keeping him safe throughout the night and rubbing his frozen feet to keep them warm. Thankfully, there were no signs of frostbite, he said.
Snow and low visibility throughout the day limited the Department of Public Safety's ability to search by air until about 3 p.m. The Davis County Sheriff's Office also had seven snowmobiles helping in the search.
The search was organized Wednesday night and started early Thursday morning after Sutton texted family members, telling them he and his son were stuck.
Contributing: Andrew Wittenberg
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