Family thanks Sanpete deputy for finding missing elderly woman in January snowstorm

Feb 6, 2024, 10:35 PM | Updated: 10:50 pm

MAYFIELD, Sanpete County —A family is thanking a sheriff’s deputy for saving a life after an 84-year-old woman went for a late-night drive in early January and got lost and stuck during a winter storm.

Gail Butler said she believed she was headed to Gunnison when she pulled away from her house, but instead of taking a right toward town, she took a left toward 12 Mile Canyon.

“I headed out the driveway and at the end of the driveway I didn’t know where to turn,” Butler told KSL TV during an interview this week. “I drove and I drove and I drove.”

At one point, Butler accidentally slipped off the road in the snowstorm and slid into a tree.

“It would spin the wheels, but it wouldn’t pull out,” Butler said of her car. “I’ll tell you what I was thinking — what do you do when you freeze to death? How do you die? And I thought, ‘I hope I just lay down and die because it was cold, it was snowing, it was dark.’”

Back home, husband Daryl Butler realized his wife was missing around 9 p.m. and quickly alerted family members and the Sanpete County Sheriff’s Office.

Daryl Butler said he thought Gail Butler may have gone to the hospital in Gunnison. Family members also apparently checked areas as far away as Yuba State Park and the Manti Utah Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Daryl Butler said with most leads exhausted, Deputy Jesse Harmon headed up 12 Mile Canyon at around 3 a.m. to search that area. It was the opposite direction of the other locations and an area that could potentially be hazardous in winter conditions.

“If you went off the side, they might find you next spring,” Daryl Butler said.

According to the family, Harmon spotted Gail Butler in her car about 9 miles up the canyon.

“I heard a knock on the passenger seat car window and I looked around and there was a man standing there,” Gail Butler said.

She said Harmon helped her out of her car and back to his truck and carefully drove her back to her home, where family members and a medical team were waiting.

“He saved her life — I know that because the snow wasn’t deep enough for the snowmobilers to go up the next morning and it was just a little too deep for the cougar hunters that might go up,” Daryl Butler said. “She would have been, probably, frozen.”

Gail Butler attributed her confusion that night to a recent change in medication.

“We’re happy to get Gail back,” Daryl said.

KSL attempted to contact the deputy for comment but a sheriff’s spokesman said Harmon was away on military duty.

Gail Butler was grateful to him.

“I can tell you that Jesse (Harmon) is a lifesaver — he really is,” she said. “My family and I are very thankful to him for all of that.”

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Family thanks Sanpete deputy for finding missing elderly woman in January snowstorm