Stranded in the Forest, They Got 'Creative' With a Drone

Trio stuck in snowy Oregon sends cellphone with SOS message into the air to pick up signal
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 13, 2023 9:35 AM CDT
Stranded in the Forest, They Got 'Creative' With a Drone
Quick thinking saved their lives.   (Facebook/Lane County Sheriff's Search and Rescue)

A trio stuck on a snowy mountain road in Oregon's Willamette National Forest, a remote area with no cellphone service, came up with a most "creative" way to survive, per Fox News. On Jan. 29, 37-year-old photographer Casey Ryan and a friend took a drive in his pickup for a day of hiking in the mountains, even though it was an icy drive, per the Washington Post. When they were about 30 miles into the forest, the two came upon a woman stranded in her Mercedes van, which they tried to pull out with Ryan's truck. Ryan accidentally backed into a snowdrift, however, leaving both vehicles stuck. The three had food and survival gear, so Ryan knew they just had to call for help and wait it out. The problem was, their walkie-talkies and the van's radio couldn't transmit that far, and there was no cellphone service.

"I said, 'We need to use our smarts here,'" Ryan recalls. His friend soon provided those smarts, remembering something he'd seen about smugglers using drones to transport cellphones into prison yards. Ryan typed an SOS message on his iPhone to his wife, who was out of the country, pressed "send," then attached the phone to his drone and sent it up, using an older spare phone as the "pilot." When the drone came back down, the three saw the message had been sent; the drone had flown high enough to pick up a signal. They had to send the phone up two more times, and the next day, rescuers from the Lane County Sheriff's Office arrived. "I've been doing search and rescue since 2007, and this was by far the most unique way I've ever seen somebody call for help," search-and-rescue coordinator Jason Bowman tells the Post.

In a Facebook post, the Lane County Sheriff's Search and Rescue unit notes they're "impressed" with the "creativity" displayed by Ryan and the others, as well as with the "smart" decision to remain with their vehicles. "Rarely does anyone in Oregon die from exposure waiting in their vehicle to be found and rescued, but we have unfortunately seen many poor outcomes from those who chose to walk away," the agency wrote. In addition, it had a few safety warnings for others to heed, including not traveling on unmaintained forest roads in the winter. Also: "Always tell a responsible person EXACTLY where you are going, and when you expect to be back. Do not deviate from this plan." (More drones stories.)

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