SWEETWATER COUNTY, WYOMING (Dec. 4, 2019) — Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Department utilized new all-terrain vehicle to rescue stranded people on White Mountain over the Thanksgiving weekend.
At around 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 29, 2019, deputies responded to a report of four different vehicles stranded atop White Mountain in blizzard conditions.
Deputies soon identified the location of the stranded vehicles on White Mountain Road, County Road #53, approximately nine miles south from the intersection of Fourteen Mile Road (CR #14).
With sustained wind speeds estimated at 60 to 70 mph and gusts as high as 80 mph, deputies also learned two of the vehicles were off of the main roadway, stuck near the edge of the mountain, and the high winds were causing them to slide down the mountain.
Deputies initiated a search and rescue operation and established a staging area near Fourteen Mile Hill north of Rock Springs. At approximately 8:45 p.m., a search and rescue crew deployed up the mountain in a Hagglunds M937A1 Small Unit Support Vehicle.
Rescuers had to cut a trail with the tracked vehicle, as the road was impassable with snowdrifts measuring three feet high. They also experienced frigid temperatures and blizzard conditions, with the winds and blowing snow limiting visibility to less than 20 feet. This forced rescuers to rely on real-time GPS mapping technology to navigate a route.
The search and rescue crew located all four stranded vehicles within approximately one-half mile of each other.
By around 1:15 a.m. Saturday morning, rescuers returned to the staging area in one trip with a total of 12 people rescued from their stranded vehicles atop the mountain.
The sheriff’s office acquired the Hagglunds in August of 2019, upon approval from the Sweetwater County Board of County Commissioners, as part of a 1033 program, which transfers excess military equipment to local agencies.
Originally developed for the Swedish military, the vehicle features articulated steering, an independent four-track drive with reinforced rubber tracks, a servo-assisted steering gear with a turning radius of less than 27 feet and a low ground pressure equivalent to less than half of that exerted by a human foot.
It can climb slopes 60 percent or steeper, and is also fully amphibious with a speed in water of up to 3 mph. It has a load capacity of over two tons, and seats 17 passengers. This unique design makes the Hagglunds an ideal vehicle for effectively negotiating through mud, snow, water hazards and other broken terrain.
In a statement, Field Services Lieutenant Joe Tomich said, “While we’d of course prefer everyone to stay safe and stay home in inclement weather conditions like those we experienced over Thanksgiving weekend, the Hagglunds is an incredible tool. We’re fortunate to have it and make it available to the community, and it’s a piece of equipment that was critical to the success of this rescue mission.”