“Did you hear Ben is here?”
“Yeah, he’s right out the door. I’ll send him in!”
Today is National First Responders Day. It’s a day that we, as a community, can pause to extend our gratitude and appreciation for the men and women who work each day to keep us and the neighborhoods we live in stronger, safer, and better connected.
Here in Summit County we have a variety of first responders who put on a uniform and don a badge each and every day to fight for and protect us. We have firefighters. Medics. Sheriff’s office patrol deputies, investigators, detectives and dispatchers. When disaster happens, we rely on them to come in and save the day, make everything better, make everything ‘ok’ again.
On Friday, October 18, 2019, I was invited to join Summit County’s Search and Rescue team in the search for Carl Crumrine. Carl disappeared four days earlier in the high Uinta Mountains. By evening time on the day he disappeared Summit County’s Search and Rescue team was dispatched. The first group of searchers hiked through the night, looking for any sign of Mr. Crumrine. As the days went by and there continued to be no significant sign of Mr. Crumrine, the number of searchers grew.
By the time I was invited to join the Search party temperatures had dropped and overnight snow had set in. My friend and colleague, Derek Siddoway, reminded me to dress warm. Derek, a seasoned member of our County’s Search and Rescue crew, knows these mountains well. He grew up in Summit County and has participated in a number of searches over the past 10 years.
Derek Siddoway, a member of Summit County’s Search and Rescue team, prepares to load a generator while gathering rescue supplies
Derek and I met in Kamas to gather supplies. Lt. Alan Siddoway with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office was requesting additional extension cords, gas cans, heaters, and a generator. Derek and I loaded supplies into a truck and then stopped for gas. As we prepared to leave Kamas and drive up Mirror Lake Highway I paused to ask Derek how long the drive would be. He hesitated, then replied, “Plan on at least an hour and a half.” Google Maps shows the distance to Mr. Crumrine’s camp at just over 50 miles outside of Kamas. But a winding forest road combined with winter conditions would make the trip take significantly longer than the typical speeds we see when driving other highways in our community.
Kory Vernon, Search Commander for Summit County’s Search and Rescue Team, uploads GPS information during the search for Carl Crumrine
Derek and I finally arrive around 2:00 pm. We pulled in to the search camp just as the group of morning hikers began to return from their morning searches. Those who had picked up on points of interest stopped in the Mobile Command Unit to share GPS information with Kory Vernon, Search Commander for Summit County Search and Rescue. Kory maintained a detailed map that showed the foot tracks of each hiker who had searched so far for Mr. Crumrine.
Sheriff Justin Martinez serves volunteer searchers during the search for Carl Crumrine
Outside of the Mobile Command Unit a mobile kitchen had been set up inside of a cargo trailer. Sheriff Justin Martinez stood at the entrance, dishing up a hot bowl of stew to each searcher who entered. In addition to the dozens of volunteers and outside agencies who assisted with the search, more than a dozen Summit County Search and Rescue participated in looking for Mr. Crumrine multiple times throughout the week, all on their own time, without pay or reimbursement from the County. I am told it’s in the spirit of ‘we’, not ‘I’, that Search and Rescue volunteers return to the mountains, time and time again. They look from the air, and they search on foot. They bring ATVs and horses too.
One of the first individuals I said ‘hi’ to was a man wearing a bright yellow Garrett Bardsley Foundation shirt. I simply told him that I liked his shirt. He broke into a smile and said, “I’m Garrett’s dad!” Kevin Bardsley’s son, Garrett, disappeared during a Boy Scout camp in 2004. Searchers looked for Garrett for weeks, but he has never been found. His dad, who has since founded the Garrett Bardsley Foundation, now organizes volunteers when other individuals disappear. I am familiar with Garrett Bardsley’s story, so meeting his father and visiting with him that afternoon was my honor.
Toby Hawkins, with his son, Brennan, along with Lt. Alan Siddoway of the Summit County Sheriff’s Office
After making my way through the camp I returned to the Mobile Command Unit. It was there that I learned Toby Hawkins and his son, Brennan, were among those searchers helping to look for Mr. Crumrine that day. I couldn’t believe my ears, or eyes, for that matter. Brennan disappeared in these same Uinta Mountains in 2005, only 10 months after Garrett Bardsley disappeared. As an 11-year old boy Brennan wandered lost in the forest for four days before a volunteer searcher found him. Brennan is grown now, but pays it forward by assisting on searches like this. Lt. Siddoway introduced me to Brennan and his dad, Toby and let me ask a few questions. I learned that Brennan’s love for the outdoors did not diminish after his scare 14 years ago. He and his family continue to camp and hunt in the Uinta Mountains. They help out when they can, on searches like this one. Toby told me that it’s hard to describe the sight of 3,000 volunteers who turned out to look for his missing son. But it’s because of their love for a stranger that he comes back, year after year, to help Summit County’s Search and Rescue team.
Back in the Mobile Command Unit Lt. Siddoway returned.
“Did you hear Ben is here?”
“Yeah, he’s right out the door. I’ll send him in!”
Kory Vernon, Summit County Search Commander for Summit County’s Search and Rescue Team, with Ben Burnett
Ben Burnett is a son-in-law to Ray Humpherys. Ray disappeared while camping with his family in July 2018. He left the camp to fetch some water and never returned. Within hours of realizing he had not made his way back to camp hundreds of searchers began to comb through the area. Mr. Humpherys was discovered, deceased, six days later. While he did not make it out of the Uinta Mountains alive, searchers were able to bring closure for the Humpherys family.
“I just felt like maybe there was something I could do to help and that’s why I’m here,” Ben told me.
Volunteer searchers leave base camp during the search for Carl Crumrine
The men and women who jump at a moment’s notice to search for missing people in Summit County are true heroes. They put their own families on hold to bring peace to another, and they do so without hesitation. They comb through Summit County’s backcountry to find missing hikers. Injured snowmobilers. Avalanche victims. They have boats for water searches and snow cats for winter searches. When there is a need, Summit County’s Search and Rescue team is ready for the call.
When I was asked to participate in Summit County’s most recent search I kept an open mind, not really knowing what to expect. What I found was a complete admiration and respect for the men and women who volunteer. I found a team of individuals who refuse to take individual credit, acknowledging that Search and Rescue efforts are a team effort. I also found a tribe of families from past searches who pay it forward by returning to Summit County year after year, and joining new search efforts.
Today is National First Responders Day. As you make your way through the grocery store, the library, the post office line, consider sending a note of thanks to our first responders, the firefighters, the sheriff’s deputies, and volunteer Search and Rescue members too.
*Editor's Note: On October 5, 2020, Carl Crumrine's remains were found by a hunter in the area. The Summit County Sheriff's Office and Search & Rescue volunteers were able to safely get Crumrine off the mountain. They have since escorted the Crumrine family back to the area for an opportunity to visit the place where Carl Crumrine passed away.
-submitted by Krachel Fullmer, Summit County PIO