Three rescued on Cheat Mountain

By Chad Clem

Staff Writer

ELKINS – Two men and a boy from Fairmont – two of them suffering from hypothermia – were rescued by police and emergency officials in the Cheat Mountain area of Randolph County Monday evening.

Billy Wayne Wilkerson, 41, his son, Garrett Wilkerson, 12, and Ricky Lee Rohrbaugh, 42, came to Randolph County Sunday to fish in the Shaver’s Fork River, but when they did not return home that night their families reported them missing to the Marion County Sheriff’s Department, police said.

Officials found the fishing party’s white GMC vehicle near the Files Creek area of Cheat Mountain at around 11 a.m. Monday morning, Lt. J.B. Utt of the Elkins detachment of the West Virginia State Police said.

A ground search was then conducted by the Troop 3 Search & Rescue Team, along with local fire department personnel and volunteers. Meanwhile, a State Police Aviation aerial search was underway, but “windy conditions made the aerial search extremely hazardous and the very rugged ground conditions and deep snow pack hampered the search efforts on the ground,” a State Police press release issued Monday night states.

The three individuals were located at about 5:30 p.m. by ground searchers, approximately a mile from their vehicle.

“A Snow Cat-type vehicle was utilized to transport the victims to an ambulance,” the press release states. “Two of the victims were suffering from hypothermia and were flown” by helicopter to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, while the third refused medical treatment, according to the release.

Utt said three helicopters, at least one bulldozer and several crews were called in to help return the victims to safety Monday evening. Snowmobiles and ATVs were also utilized, a State Police official said.

Three helicopters were on standby at Camp Pioneer in Beverly to transport the patients to a care facility once they were brought down from the mountain. Due to strong winds in the area and the condition of the victims, Utt said the helicopters would be unable to land near where the individuals were found.

In addition to the Marion County Sheriff’s Department and the Elkins detachment of the West Virginia State Police, the U.S. Marshals service as well as the Beverly and Huttonsville-Mill Creek fire departments investigated the incident.

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