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CDA man makes backcountry rescue

by BILL BULEY
Staff Writer | December 15, 2020 1:08 AM

When Patrick Browder rounded the turn on his snowmobile in the backcountry Saturday morning, he was greeted by something unexpected: A four-door BMW.

“This struck me as odd,” the Coeur d’Alene man said. “It’s a beautiful morning, we’re racing up this road, and all of the sudden there’s a BMW sideways in the snow. First, I thought, ‘Wow, who got this thing this far up here?’”

He and a friend pulled over to investigate.

Good thing. They likely saved a life.

“I’m glad we stopped and took time to help him,” Browder said.

A man in his 50s, shaken, scared and weak, opened the door and stumbled out. He said he’d been stuck there — off Forest Service Road 506 on the Montana side of the Idaho-Montana border near the East Portal Trailhead of the Hiawatha Trail — since Wednesday night.

All he had were a few candy bars and a bottle of water. To stay warm, he turned on the car every so often.

He had hoped someone would come along — but no one did until Browder and friend Justin showed during a backcountry exploration ride.

The man, wearing long shorts and ankle socks, wasn’t dressed for cold weather and the car's heater didn't work well.

“He was pretty cold,” Browder said.

Attempts to dig the car out failed, so Browder messaged his wife, Melanie, via Garmin that they had found a stranded man and needed help. She in turn contacted the Mineral County Sheriff’s Office.

After some back and fourth with the MCSO and the best way to proceed, Browder told the man to bundle up and loaded him on his snowmobile.

“Hang on,” he said, and raced about 5 miles to the trailhead parking lot off Exit 5 in Taft, Mont., where an ambulance met them and he was transported to the Mineral Community Hospital.

“Another night, he would have probably been in pretty bad shape,” Browder said.

The man, who recovered, told rescuers he was from Spokane, recently broke up with his significant other, had personal issues, and decided to commit suicide, according to the Mineral County Sheriff’s Office report.

He said he was driving to visit his mom one last time, took the Taft exit to use a bathroom but ended up driving across a bridge and up the road that led to backcountry near the East Portal. A few miles later, he got stuck in several inches of snow.

According to the sheriff’s office report, he “stated that while he was stuck, he had a lot of time to think about his life. He decided that committing suicide was not the option in life that he wanted.”

On the third morning, help arrived.

Browder said it was fortunate they happened to go that direction Saturday morning. There are so many options for snowmobiles, they could have easily taken another path.

"The right time at the right place," his wife, Melanie, said.

Browder loves scouting the backcountry in Idaho and Montana and being the first out there, cutting through freshly fallen snow. He said he’s come across people needing help, but not like this.

"I'm just glad we were there," he said.

Melanie Browder said her husband is the humble sort who doesn’t like attention, but in this case, she said, he should get it.

She called the encounter and rescue a miracle.

“I’m so, so proud of him,” she said.

The man they saved was grateful, too.

“He called us his angels,” Browder said, something he and friend Justin laughed about.

“Not a lot of people would call us angels,” he added.

As for the BMW, it likely won't be going anywhere soon.

“He may have to wait until the snow clears in the spring in order to get it,” the sheriff's report said.

photo

Patrick Browder