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New ATV has big first day at UCSO with plane crash, snow rescue

UMATILLA COUNTY, Oregon — A new All-Terrain Vehicle equipped with snow tracks, had a big first day with the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office, responding to two calls for service on February 28.

Because it can travel through deep snow and has a large payload, it can also be used to assist in search and rescue missions or to carry injured or lost persons to safety. It was for that very reason that it was deployed on Wednesday, after a 911 call was received that indicated that there was an aircraft that crashed in the Blue Mountains east of Milton-Freewater. Emergency Manager Tom Roberts picked up the ATV and drove to the scene, and members of Search and Rescue found the Walla Walla University aviation student and his instructor, who had been piloting the small plane, in the Government Camp area. They were cold and wet, and fortunately, uninjured.

Before crews were able to return from the plane crash incident, they were called to assist the Umatilla Tribal Police Department to search for possibly suicidal man who was on foot in the snow in Poverty Flats area outside Pendleton. Searchers found the man and drove him to safety in the ATV.

“Within the first few hours of having this type of vehicle, we’ve already demonstrated its value to the Sheriff’s Office”, said Jim Littlefield, Umatilla County Undersheriff. “While the vehicle’s primary mission will be for snow patrol use, it also has the capacity to be used in many other situations and can help us save lives.”

“The potential for the use of this type of equipment in emergency response is huge, and Umatilla County has had a need for units like this before”, said Tom Roberts, Umatilla County Emergency Manager. “In 2012, a tracked ATV was deployed from Walla Walla County, to I‐84 near Deadman Pass for a tour bus that crashed and rolled down a ravine with 44 individuals onboard. For incidents like that and others, it will be nice to have this capability at UCSO.”

The ATV was purchased with grant funds provided to the Sheriff’s Office from their partnership with the Oregon State Snowmobile Association.

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