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Man rescued from mountain now recovering

A rider thrown from his horse on Sheep Mountain Saturday is on the mend following a two-day hospital stay.

Matthew Bell, 57, of Cody was hauling salt blocks with friends for heifers on Sheep Mountain when a covey of grouse flushed in front of his horse.

The horse spooked and bucked. Bell said he was airborne, then landed hard on his saddle horn.

He was feeling a bit “shocky,” Bell said. He knew there was no way he could ride off the mountain.

After some discussion, it was decided a helicopter ride off the mountain and to the hospital was the best option, Bell said.

John Buffkin, 53, of Cody, and two others were with him. They had to find an spot on the mountain that provided cell phone reception, Bell said.

At 1:38 p.m., the Park County Sheriff’s Emergency Communications Center received a 911 call.

Bell’s buddy said his friend had been thrown from his horse on the top of Sheep Mountain. “Mr. Buffkin further stated that Mr. Bell had sustained a possible spinal injury and they were afraid to move him,” said Lance Mathess, sherriff’s office spokesman.

Park County Search and Rescue deployed and its airplane promptly took to the air, Mathess said.

“After a brief search of the area, the pilot was able to locate Mr. Bell and his party in an extremely steep and rugged area of Sheep Mountain,” Mathess said.

The plan was to fly to West Park Hospital in Cody, but no neuro specialists were on duty at the time, so it was decided to transport Bell directly to St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings in case he needed neuro-related medical care, he said.

“While waiting for the helicopter to arrive, the Search and Rescue aircraft was able to maintain visual contact with Mr. Bell and after a brief survey of the area develop a suitable landing site for the helicopter not far from him,” Mathess said.

“At approximately 3:30 p.m, a Billings Helpflight helicopter arrived on the scene and landed on the mountain,” Mathess said. “Emergency medical personnel were then able to stabilize Mr. Bell before transporting to St. Vincent Hospital in Billings.”

Bell said he suffered a broken pelvis.

“I’m going to be laid up six to eight weeks,” he said.

It’s been a rough ride for him in the past decade. In 2004, he broke his neck in a horse wreck, Bell said.

He was released from St. V’s at noon on Monday.

Bell said he knows he’ll go stir-crazy waiting to heal, but he was mighty appreciative of his friends who helped him on the mountain.

“I’m doing OK,” he said.

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