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Wheeler County ranch worker rescued after two days pinned under ATV

Wheeler County authorities and volunteers rescued a Condon-area rancher on Sunday who had been pinned for two days under an overturned ATV.
George Plaven

East Oregonian

Published on June 15, 2015 11:00AM

Last changed on June 15, 2015 6:28PM

Wheeler County authorities and volunteers rescued a local ranch worker Sunday who spent nearly two days pinned underneath an overturned ATV in the Lost Valley area north of Kinzua.

Bill Williams, 52, was taken aboard Life Flight and flown to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland, where he was in critical condition Monday afternoon. The Condon man was identified by the hospital and family members online.

Sheriff Chris Humphreys said Williams was found at the bottom of a sharp canyon with just his legs sticking out from under the vehicle. He was conscious and able to communicate, though clearly injured, dehydrated and suffering from exposure.

Recent temperatures in Fossil have fluctuated between daytime highs of 80 degrees and nighttime lows of 50 degrees.

“For the type of accident in the area he was in, and how long he was out there in only work clothes, he was in surprisingly good shape,” Humphreys said. “We’re very thankful for that.”

Crews began searching Saturday for Williams, who had last been seen Friday morning, according to a police report. They worked through the night before a sheriff’s deputy and landowner found him early Sunday morning.

It took several hours to extricate Williams due to the difficult terrain, and move him into an area where the Life Flight helicopter could land.

“The rescue itself was amazing,” Humphreys said. “On this particular situation, the helicopter landed and Life Flight medics had to work a long time to get him stabilized before transport.”

Search and rescue was able to drive Williams up a side hill using a utility vehicle confiscated by police in the high-profile poaching case involving Alan Roy Aronson, of Bend, who was convicted last year of leading illegal hunting trips on private land. Police arrested 23 people on more than 200 counts of illegal hunting stemming from that investigation.

Having that UTV available to the sheriff’s office likely saved Williams’s life during Sunday’s rescue effort, Humphreys said.

“There’s no way Wheeler County could ever afford buying one of those,” he said. “Without that, I have no idea how we would have done it.”

Members of the Gilliam County Sheriff’s Office also assisted in the rescue.


Contact George Plaven at gplaven@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4547.


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