South Big Horn County Search and Rescue has released the details of an incident that occurred one mile north of Shell Falls on Monday, September 11.
On Monday, at 6:42 pm, the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office received a call about a vehicle that was running and had the drivers door left open for several hours.
The caller said that they drove past the vehicle that was parked in a pullout area approximately one mile above Shell Falls earlier that day. When the reporting party saw the vehicle still there on their way back, they stopped to check on the vehicle.
The caller did not find anyone inside the vehicle or in the area, but was able to locate a camera near the edge of the canyon.
A deputy from the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Department immediately responded to the area and drove to an area that had cell coverage to report a possible fall in the canyon.
According the Search and Rescue (SAR) statement, “The on-duty deputy consulted with the SAR captain and the decision was made to page out both South and North SAR teams to search the area.”
When Search and Rescue teams arrived, they began setting up a staging area at the scene and the SAR Captain setup a rappel anchor and repelled the canyon edge near the location of the vehicle.
“The next arriving rope team member joined in the rappel search of the canyon wall and another team was sent down canyon to hike to the bottom and assist the search from the canyon floor,” continue the statement.
Approximately 280 feet below the canyon rim, the victim was located. Unfortunately, he did not survive the fall.
Once rescuers received approval from the deputy coroner, the victim was moved upstream 50 yards to a place that was better for extraction. Then the subject was raised to the roadway using a rope system and was turned over to the coroner’s office.
The victim was identified as a 69 year old male from Texas who was traveling through the area in a rental car.
This incident is a heartbreaking reminder to be mindful of steep drop off areas along Shell Falls. When visiting the area, Search and Rescue reminds visitors to take all photos from a safe place because, “the pictures are not worth the risk of a fall.”
South Big Horn County Search and Rescue also expressed their gratitude to all of the volunteers who responded from both North and South SAR Teams.
“This was a complex mission [that] ran almost entirely after dark,” the statement reads. “We had great collaboration from the Big Horn County SAR teams, Big Horn County Sheriff’s Department, the dispatchers, Cody Regional EMS, and the Big Horn County Coroner.”
All team members were off of the mountain and the call was completed by 11:45 p.m.