Taos Search & Rescue

A Successful “Just-in-Time” Winter Rescue on Picuris Peak

At midday on January 18th, 2021, Taos Search and Rescue was activated to rescue a stranded motorist on Forest Road 114 to Picuris Peak. The subject had called 911 after their vehicle had gotten stuck. The subject said they had been stranded for 9 days.

At approximately 3:00pm, an incident base was established at US Hill. TSAR members Chris, Gary, Nate and Roy drove up FR 114 in 2 personally-owned 4×4 vehicles. About a mile uptrail, the teams decided to consolidate to 1 vehicle as road conditions worsened.

Approximately 3.5 miles uptrail, the team located the subject, who was alive and well. The subject was returned to incident base at 5:30PM, just 2.5 hours after the team had left IB. Darkness fell and a snowstorm was rolling in, making this rescue “just-in-time”.

Many factors contributed to make this a successful rescue:

1. The subject followed the instructions of emergency dispatchers to shelter in place, allowing rescuers to locate them easily.
2. The subject had supplies of food and water, and the ability to make a fire to stay warm.
3. Conditions allowed a relatively easy and fast rescue using wheeled vehicles.

When you are driving in northern New Mexico:

1. Carry adequate supplies in the event that you become stranded.
2. Understand your GPS or navigation system and it’s limitations.
3. If you become stranded off-highway and you are lost, stay where you are and call 911.

TSAR member David was Incident Commander for this mission. TSAR member Marcia worked at Incident Base.

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TSAR joins search for missing man near Abiquiu Lake

Three members of Taos Search and Rescue responded to a mission call-out near Abiquiu Lake on December 17, 2020. The subject was a 55-year-old man from out of state who had been missing for several days. His pickup truck parked near the lake had been reported abandoned to law enforcement.

Members of TSAR’s ground, K9 and drone units joined others from around the state. Among the other teams that responded were Mountain Canine Corps, Sandia Search Dogs, Santa Fe Search and Rescue, Cibola Search and Rescue, Los Alamos Auxiliary Fire Brigade and the Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office.

TSAR’s drone unit flew three sorties in the search area along the Rio Chama and nearby.

The search was suspended at nightfall and a mission stand down was issued later in the evening. The search remains in suspended status as of early January.

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TSAR Cooperating and Training with the Sheriff’s Department

Drone's eye view of the Rio Grande Gorge.
Drone’s eye view of the Rio Grande Gorge.

By TSAR Drone Unit Leader LJ Beckman

Editor’s Note: Before the pandemic lock-down took effect mid-March, the Taos Search and Rescue drone had multiple trainings assisting the Taos County Sheriff’s Office. The drone unit has continued to operate and assist in missions during the pandemic, including a successful multi-agency rescue effort near the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in May

The first training was on March 6th to help locate potential subjects thrown out of a car during an accident. The wreck occurred on NM Highway 150, a truck went over the guardrail and had rolled into a precarious location. The grade was very steep and the ground had ice and snow. Our search area was from the road down 200 feet to the vehicle and an area of about 2.5 acres.  Unit members present included LJ B., Chelsea, Karlis and Gary J.

Working with the Taos County Sheriff’s Dept.

We utilized our DJI Mavic 2 Zoom and FPV goggles. LJ piloted, while Karlis wore the goggles and directed him where to go. Chelsea was a visual observer and Gary was on standby to lend support.  We covered the area in two flights and the clarity of the images was stunning. We were able to see 4” shards of vehicle plastic under a tree.

Our second training was at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge Visitor Center on March 10th. A woman had been missing 7 days and the drone unit offered its services to fly the river under the bridge and survey the area. LJ piloted the drone while Chelsea wore the goggles and Craig was the visual observer. We got very good coverage on the area and when we shared our results with the Sheriff, it saved the department from having to have an officer make the dangerous hike down in person.

Our third training was at the scene of another accident; this time a head on collision. Initially we were sent out to search for additional persons that may have been ejected from either vehicles. Once we arrived on scene the accident had been contained and we were requested to take aerial photos of the accident to help illustrate the report and give some more clues as to what happened. LJ piloted with Craig and Gary providing visual observer support.

All of these trainings help us become better drone pilots and searchers as well as foster interagency relations and to better serve the public.

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WHEN DOGS ON PUBLIC TRAILS BECOME DANGEROUS

BY CINDY BROWN FOR THE TAOS NEWS

Delinda VanneBrightyn of Dogology, president of Taos Search and Rescue and head of canine unit

Be prepared and thoughtful when walking. Stay alert and keep your dog under control. If you are diligent with your dog, you show respect and protect yourself from liability.

I don’t recommend dropping the leash of your own dog, if you are charged by aggressive dogs. It does work sometimes, but if it doesn’t, you’ve lost all control of your dog.

I carry a walking stick and use it or a backpack to put between me and the dog – keeping my dog behind me. I make my voice low – like a bear growl and say, “Get back” or “Get away.”

I also carry Stop That spray. It makes a noise that startles dogs and has positive pheromones and is completely safe to use. Bear or pepper spray is another possibility – you just have to ensure it doesn’t come back into your face. I also look around for rocks or sticks and have no problem using them. If the dogs get into a fight, you might be able to separate them by kicking the ribs or throwing water on them.

Be aware of coyotes, too. I know of several instances in which small dogs were grabbed by a coyote.

Make sure to educate and empower yourself to be prepared and protect yourself and your dog – that way you can turn a bad situation into a nonevent. We are lucky that we are able to take our dogs on public lands here. That is not the case everywhere. We live in a remarkable place – let’s keep it that way.

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TAOS WOMEN

Tireless & Passionate: Delinda VanneBrightyn, TSAR President & K9 Unit Leader


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