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Utah man survives 4 days in snowy wilderness

WASATCH COUNTY — Spending four nights in the wilderness may sound appealing to some people, but it’s not what 60-year-old David Hales had planned.

Hales, who lives in North Salt Lake and has a cabin in Heber, was working on a neighbor’s snowmobile Friday when he took it into the mountains near Heber to see if it was working properly.

Chief Deputy Jared Rigby with the Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office said while Hales was out, he got lost and eventually ran out of gas.

“He went out on a 30-minute ride to try and test it make sure it was working right. He took a wrong turn, ended up in a place he wasn’t, and couldn’t get back,” said Rigby.

Neighbors didn’t report him missing until they noticed he hadn’t come back home.

“We didn’t know about this situation until last night at about 8 p.m.,” said Chief Deputy Rigby. “Once we found out about it, our search and rescue teams were up there, and about 14 hours later we were able to find him.”

Hales is now recovering at the Heber Valley Hospital. He is in stable condition but also is being treated for hypothermia, according to the Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office.

When search and rescue crews found him near the Strawberry River drainage, video shows he was in good enough shape to climb into their helicopter. Once inside the helicopter, Hales gave his rescuers a double-peace sign to thank them and let them know he was OK before being taken to the hospital.

“This is a success story on so many levels,” said Rigby. “We like these kinds of stories when they end like this. Our search and rescue crews do an amazing job and often get called in the middle of the night in tough situations to do a difficult job.”

Video from Chopper 5 shows the area where Hales was, including a snowmobile, extinguished fires, and footprints leading out of the remote, snowy area.

Rescuers said he walked and crawled through the heavy snow in the direction of Highway 40 before being found four days later.

“He did well at starting fires and keeping himself warm through the night and heading downhill and in the right direction,” said Rigby. “And we are so fortunate that we found him.”



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