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Maureen McMullen, Published February 22 2014

Five ND snowmobilers found safe in Wyoming national forest after missing for more than a day

SHERIDAN, Wyo. – Five snowmobilers from North Dakota who were missing in Bighorn National Forrest for more than a day were found safe there Saturday afternoon.

Lt. Mark Conrad of the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Department said the riders were found safe and healthy but had run out of gas in the massive national park.

Search and rescue teams from Bighorn and Johnson counties joined Sheridan in the search for the snowmobilers, which Conrad said is common procedure due to the triangulation of the three counties.

Along with the search and rescue teams and Forest Service, Conrad said about 40 other volunteers showed up to help with the search in poor weather.

“We had tons of people that are knowledgeable outdoorsmen and snowmobilers that showed up,” said Conrad. “(The search) couldn’t have ended faster or better, considering the weather.”

The five riders were reported missing early Friday morning by Roberta Young, owner of The Bear Lodge Resort, where the riders were staying.

Not having seen the riders since 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Young reported them missing early Friday.

Soon after, search and rescue teams from the surrounding counties set up a base for search operations.

The teams worked in shifts through Friday night until about 1 p.m. Saturday, when the five riders were found.

Despite the arsenal of searchers and volunteers, the area’s snowfall over the past few days had decreased visibility, hindering search efforts.

The Sheridan Press reported that the Civil Air Patrol was on standby to aid in the search, but was unable to fly due to the lack of visibility.

The same report said the five snowmobilers were identified as Chad Tweten, James Murray Sr., Jaren Murray, Rod Schilling and Dustin Schlichting, all of western North Dakota. Their ages and hometowns were not reported.

Young said the riders were “familiar with this mountain,” having ridden there frequently.

“They’ve ridden the Bighorn for several years,” said Young.

Conrad said gasoline was brought to the stranded snowmobilers, who then returned to The Bear Lodge.

Check back to inforum.com for more on this developing story.