Thoughts of family helped snowmobiler survive 2 days in frigid wilderness

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SALT LAKE CITY — A man missing for nearly two full days in the backcountry near Logan did two things right that helped him survive: He stayed in one place and he built a shelter. He had no food, no cellphone, no way out, but what he did have was hope.

Lawrence Orduno and his friend were snowmobiling Saturday afternoon in the Franklin Basin area of Cache County when they got separated. Orduno got stuck in deep snow.

“I came over a snow bank and when I came up, I came down, and (the snowmobile) went straight into the snow," the 48-year-old Phoenix man said. "I gunned it; it was climbing up out and it just slammed straight up and down, vertical. It just stopped right there.”

Mounds of snow some 8 to 10 feet deep prevented Orduno from getting out, so he found some twigs and started a fire using his lighter and gas from his snowmobile. He also dug a snow cave for warmth, but he had no food and only a bottle and a half of Gatorade.

Little did Orduno know, but his buddy had called search and rescue, and teams were looking for him. When he woke up the next morning, still alone, he got a bit nervous.

“It was tough, and I got worried a little bit,” Orduno said. “I felt a piece of panic, or a time of panic there.”

Through another day and an even colder night — with temperatures plummeting to 9 degrees below zero — Orduno stayed put and waited.

“That was my thought the whole time: I can’t wait to see my son and my girlfriend again," he said. "That’s what I’m doing it for; that’s why I’m out here fighting to stay alive for, is for my family."

Finally, Monday morning, a searcher on a snowmobile passed nearby and saw Orduno waving his arms.

“I was like, ‘Thank God!’ because he passed me once and didn’t even see me,” Orduno said.

Orduno was saved, and now he's just happy search and rescue teams didn't give up.

“That is my main objective here, is to tell ‘thank you’ to everybody who came out to help me," he said. "Because if it wasn’t for them, I would be laying in the cave still and probably laying there for a long time."

Orduno drove back home to Phoenix Tuesday evening, but he said he’s hoping to come back to Utah later this winter to go snowmobiling again.

“It’s a passion of mine,” he said. “I love it.”

After this experience, Orduno is even considering getting involved on a search and rescue team.


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Alex Cabrero


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