Resourceful Missing Teens Rescued After Coast Guard Sees Message Written in the Snow

Two teens were rescued by the Coast Guard after they went missing for several days near Swastika Mountain in Oregon. A helicopter rescue crew helped the Lane County Sheriff's Office track the pair down, which was made easier when responders spotted "SOS" written in the snow.

The pair went out camping on the mountain around Christmas Day but did not return by Wednesday, December 29. According to a release published by the United States Coast Guard, officials with the Lane County Sheriff's Office dispatched officers to start searching for the two teenagers on the ground.

Lane County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue Coordinator told Newsweek that law enforcement officials received a call from the family on December 31. They spent the day analyzing cell phone records and spoke with witnesses to figure out where the hikers went.

However, the snow required the agency to request additional assistance.

"Due to recent heavy snowfall in the area covering the mountain roads, Lane County requested Coast Guard helicopter support in locating the individuals," the release stated.

Thanks to the message in the snow, rescuers were able to find the teenagers, hoist them into the aircraft and transfer them to Eugene Airport to meet with Lane County sheriffs.

Lt. Conor Regan participated in the rescue mission with the Coast Guard and was in the helicopter. He told Newsweek the two hikers were cold but did not reach hypothermic conditions. They also did not have a substantial meal for at least 24 hours and were hungry when they were hoisted into the helicopter.

"Once they got into the aircraft, they were excited," Regan said.

He explained that the two arrived at their campsite, but several feet of snow accumulated over the course of just a few days.

Petty Officer and spokesperson for the Coast Guard Steve Strohmaier told Newsweek the roads were impassable and the police department did not have the necessary snow equipment to get to the destination.

In addition to saving the two teenagers, two other people in distress were found. Lane County officials were notified, and land party search crews were believed to be within range of them.

Regan told Newsweek the car that the other two people were in was stuck in the snow. However, they managed to get it moving on their own.

Oregon Hiking
Two teens were found in Oregon after rescuers spotted their "SOS" message written in the snow. Above, visitors walk through Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. George Rose/Getty Images

"These young men did a lot of things right to give themselves the best chance of being rescued," said. Lt. Maggie Champin, MH-65 aircraft commander, Sector North Bender. "By writing 'SOS' in the snow, staying near their vehicle and staying near logging roads, we were able to find them relatively quickly."

Regan told Newsweek responders began the search at about 10 a.m. on Saturday, but it wasn't until 2 p.m. that they located the teens.

"The helicopter was searching over the area a few times," Regan said.

Champin recommended that hikers carry locator beacons, which is a device that transmits a signal when a person needs to be rescued. The signal is received by satellite and the nearest ground station is notified.

There were no injuries reported.

In addition to carrying the locator beacons, there are a few other tips people can consider when hiking during the winter. The National Park Service encourages hikers to carry a map and compass, know the trail conditions before hiking and inform others of their whereabouts and when they expect to return.

When setting out for a hike, there are some winter hiking essentials individuals should carry with them, like waterproof and warm clothing, hiking poles to help with footing on icy trails and traction devices designed to go over a hiker's shoes.

Strohmaier and Regan told Newsweek it is not uncommon for the Coast Guard to assist with rescue missions. The entity has many tools and pieces of equipment that can help law enforcement agencies in their search and rescue operations.

Chase said the agency works with the Coast Guard between six and 10 times each year.

This is not the only instance of a hiker who needed to be rescued by officials.

In October of 2021, Newsweek reported that a 74-year-old hiker was found holding onto a tree after falling about 30 feet down an embankment in Colorado.

A fellow hiker reported the incident. When rescuers found her, they secured her with a rope and carried her up the hill on a litter, which is a stretcher with a raised edge and fastening straps.