Forum Index > Pacific NW History > Metaline Falls Search in 1972
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Schroder
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Schroder
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PostMon Sep 06, 2021 12:52 pm 
One of the two largest search efforts I ever participated in was 49 years ago near Metaline Falls.

On October 30, 1972, Everett Mountain Rescue received a call from the  Department of Emergency Management telling us that the Pend Oreille County Sheriff needed help for a search of two missing hunters. They had no SAR teams in the NE corner of our state at the time. We assembled a small team of 5 or 6 in the evening with me driving our Dodge Powerwagon that carried all our personnel and equipment. It was a brutal drive - more than 400 miles and 8 hours of driving in heavy fog through the night to Metaline Falls, where we met Seattle MRC's team consisting only of George Sainsbury and Paul Leroy.  On the way over we had to pass the hat for gas money because our unit was broke and only kept going through our own donations. We met with the Sheriff in Metaline Falls and drove to the missing subject's car up Slate Creek. The weather was sleet with temperatures hovering near freezing.

Our team headed quickly into the field while I stayed back with exhaustion from the drive. George Sainsbury took charge and had Leroy and I drive into Canada and up a mountain to set up a radio relay on the border strip at an existing radio tower. The terrain was making communication difficult with the field team.

The search area was massive, as we soon discovered, and further complicated by the minerals in Lead Mountain throwing off everyone's compasses. Sainsbury got on a phone and started mustering all the resources he could find to help us.

By the end of the first day of searching, our team had found no sign of the hunters and other teams were beginning to arrive. We moved the base camp down to Metaline Falls and the town opened the school gymnasium for us to sleep in and set up a mess hall.

Before long, our search teams consisted of: all the Pend Oreille Sheriff's Deputies; deputies from 2 neighboring counties; rangers from 2 National Forests, the Air Force Survival School from Spokane; five Mountain Rescue units; eight SAR units; 150 National Guard soldiers; 146 Army soldiers; and many other volunteers. We had numerous chinook helicopters shuttling team and assisting in the search when the weather permitted.

The weather was miserable throughout 12 days of searching and many of searchers were not clothed properly for it - particularly the National Guard soldiers who wore cotton fatigues. Three soldiers required medical attention for hypothermia and one was hospitalized. There were 10 searchers over the duration of the operation that required medical attention.

The hunters - Larry R. Brown and Donald G. Bradbury, both 29, were found deceased from hypothermia on the twelfth day, November 10, very close to the border strip where I had set up the radio relay on the first day. It was thought that they died on their second night out.

The Search Area
The Search Area
Metaline Falls School and our truck
Metaline Falls School and our truck
Our ride to the Radio Tower
Our ride to the Radio Tower
A Border Monument and the Border strip looking east from Boundary Ridge
A Border Monument and the Border strip looking east from Boundary Ridge

An addendum from D.S. who was also on the search:

"I was on that mission with Seattle ESAR. We were flown from McCord AFB to Fairchild AFB and bused N. One can imagine the pile of knives and machetes the Air Force collected when we went through the new (1972) metal detectors with our packs. We lined the sides of the plane with our packs (and the pile of easily accessible knives) in the middle. My team's assignment was sweep searching through 20ft. tall, wet-snow coated, crowded 2nd growth. On our 2nd night we, teenagers, got back into our wet wool and returned to the field to bring back dozens of stuck national guard members whose Scotchgard coated cotton uniforms hadn't stood up to the elements and were hypothermic. We carried one out. One guardsman hefted my depleted pack and said it was heavier than his battle pack. (The first night they had poked fun at us for wearing wool.) While we were on the mission, the military began a huge Vietnam supply effort, taking all the big planes. The ESAR members returned home on a wide variety of buses and aircraft, from helicopters to Navy planes. Late at night, I ended up at Whidbey NAS."

hikerbiker, car68, Sculpin, moonspots, runup, mosey
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Tom
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PostMon Sep 06, 2021 1:06 pm 
Very cool (except for the outcome).  Thanks for posting!

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Chief Joseph
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Chief Joseph
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PostMon Sep 06, 2021 1:11 pm 
Bradbury is a common name around Priest Lake where my mom lives. I will have to ask her but Donald was probably one of 4 brothers who ran the lumber mill there on highway 57 in Priest Lake. There is only one brother left, the other 2 passed away from cancer fairly recently and the mill is shut down.

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Go placidly amid the noise and waste, and remember what comfort there may be in owning a piece thereof.
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Randito
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Randito
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PostMon Sep 06, 2021 2:24 pm 
Thanks for your service.   The search saved the family from being left wondering what happened to their family members.

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Ski
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PostMon Sep 06, 2021 4:49 pm 
Wow.

Thanks, Schroder.

I was up in that area about 15 years ago on an attempt at Gypsy Peak. That is some wild country up there.

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"I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. 
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each."
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Kim Brown
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Kim Brown
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PostWed Sep 08, 2021 10:59 am 
Thanks for posting Randy. These writeups are perfect contributions to history!

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" I'm really happy about this! … I have very strong good and horrible memories up there."  – oldgranola, NWH’s outdoors advocate.
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