Missing snowmobiler survives storm despite 'slim to none' odds

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LOGAN CANYON — When the call went out over the two-way radio that missing snowmobiler Lawrence Orduno had been found Monday, a moment of silence fell over friends and family listening at the command post, anticipating the next words.

"Everyone was telling me chances (of surviving) at best were slim to none," said friend Charles Wood.

Then came the words that brought relief for everyone.

"They said, 'He's fine. He's hungry, he's cold, and he wants something to eat.' Yeah, everyone was pretty happy. A couple of hugs, a couple of 'yahoos,' couple of high-fives. It was a great feeling," Wood said.

Orduno, 48, of Arizona, was found just before 10 a.m. in the Cow Canyon area of Cache County's Franklin Basin. He had been missing about 36 hours, spending two nights in temperatures that dipped to single digits and negative numbers, in addition to about 18 inches of new snow falling on the area during that time.

"We were actually very concerned we were not going to find him alive," admitted Cache County Sheriff's Lt. Doyle Peck. "I don't know if he would have made it one more night out here.

"He's very, very, very lucky. Our guys did a fantastic job locating him with the weather conditions we had last night. This guy is very lucky that we found him in as good of condition as he is in," Peck said. "He may have suffered some frostbite to one of his toes. But frankly, he's in great condition considering the elements he was exposed to."

Orduno and Courtney Wood, 27, of Logan, were snowmobiling in the Franklin Basin area Saturday and taking a final run of the day about 6 p.m. The two became separated, however, after Courtney Wood got stuck in deep snow. He made his way back to their original starting point about two hours later.

He's very, very, very lucky. Our guys did a fantastic job locating him with the weather conditions we had last night. This guy is very lucky that we found him in as good of condition as he is in.

–Cache County Sheriff's Lt. Doyle Peck

But when Orduno didn't show up, Courtney Wood eventually flagged down a motorist in Logan Canyon about 3 a.m. Sunday saying he needed help. About 45 search and rescue personnel members scoured the area starting Sunday morning until heavy snowfall and darkness forced them to stop about 7 p.m. The search resumed Monday morning.

Just before 10 a.m. Monday, a search crew found Orduno about 1 ½ miles off the main trail in deep snow. Orduno, who is originally from the Cache Valley area and was familiar with the area, used his snowmobile and a tree to try to make a windbreak, Peck said.

A SnowCat eventually brought Orduno off the mountain.

"Doing good. I just want to thank all the search and rescue. They did a great job. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be here," he said briefly as rescue crews took him to a waiting ambulance.

Courtney Wood said he was told that his friend actually went running out in front of the rescuers when he heard them approaching.

"Today's a great day. I was worried for sure," he said. "This morning I was having a hard time thinking he'd probably be dead. He said … he probably wouldn't make it one more night."

"I just don't know how he did it," added Charles Wood, Courtney's father.

Charles Wood praised the work done by the search and rescue teams. He said he tried to remain positive throughout the ordeal.

"I just had a feeling; stayed optimistic. Couldn't have felt better when we heard he was alive and well," he said. "He's a pretty tough guy. He's a survivor. If I wanted to be with anybody to survive, Courtney and Larry would be A and B. They're pretty tough guys, and they know what they're doing."

Contributing: Mike Anderson


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