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Rescuer: Minnesota snowmobilers saved during Montana snowstorm in ‘good spirits’

Updated: December 18, 2019 08:02 PM

Five Minnesotans were rescued early Monday morning while on a snowmobile trip in the backcountry of Montana near Lake Dinah according to the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff's office said there was 5 feet of new snow with no base making it difficult to reach the men, and winds were whipping around at 40 miles an hour.

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A helicopter rescue crew told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the conditions were so poor their crew had to land and was unable to help in the search.

"These guys did one thing right, they had a GPS locator that through satellite were able to send text messages,” said Gerry Connell, Chief of Seeley-Swan Search and Rescue. “Had it not been for that, we wouldn't have even known they were missing, they might still be up there today.”

The backcountry area that is popular with snowmobilers has no cell service, locals said.

One of the riders had to swim out of the ice-covered lake after his snow machine went through the ice, and several members of their party ended up wet while trying to pull the snowmobile out of the water according to the sheriff’s office Facebook post.

5 Minnesota snowmobilers rescued in Montana

"Tons of wind, and lots and lots of deep snow," said Kurt Friede, who had just finished plowing the parking lot of his snowmobile shop in Seeley Lake when he got word riders were in trouble. "They had a situation and they needed help so I jumped on my sled."

Friede, an expert snowmobiler, said he knew the area well and took off on his sled along with a member of the search and rescue team to look for the five Minnesota men.

There were tracks in the snow that Friede said they used to find the men.

"They weren't panicked they had a big fire going — they were fine,” said Friede. “They were warm, we regrouped and I built them a different trail going out for them, and they jumped on their sleds."

One of the men had an injured arm but Friede said he was able to ride out with the group.

Before the Minnesotans left town, they made a donation to the search and rescue team that saved them, according to the department.

The search team and the sheriff’s office said they did not take down the mens’ names or their hometowns in any report.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS left a message for the men at the resort they were staying at according to a desk clerk but have yet to hear back.

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Eric Chaloux

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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