Following GPS directions, truck driver gets stuck in Beartooths

Posted 12/5/19

First responders from multiple agencies had to rescue a semi-truck driver last week, after he and a passenger got stuck while trying to drive up the Beartooth Highway (U.S. 212).

Wintry conditions …

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Following GPS directions, truck driver gets stuck in Beartooths

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First responders from multiple agencies had to rescue a semi-truck driver last week, after he and a passenger got stuck while trying to drive up the Beartooth Highway (U.S. 212).

Wintry conditions closed most of the highway a couple months ago and a sign warns truckers not to try navigating the mountainous route in good conditions. However, the driver — who was not identified by authorities — attempted to take U.S. 212 because “his GPS gave him that route,” the Wyoming Highway Patrol said in a Monday Facebook post.

The tractor-trailer wound up getting stuck about 5 miles east of the Beartooth Highway’s junction with Wyo. Highway 296 (the Chief Joseph Highway) on the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 27. The patrol, personnel from Park County Search and Rescue and a loader and plow truck from Yellowstone National Park were all dispatched to the scene around 11:28 a.m. There was initial concern that search and rescue members would need to snowmobile in to the site, but a trooper was able to reach the truck with his all-wheel-drive Dodge Charger and the heavy equipment followed.

“At [6:43 p.m.], the tractor-trailer, which was ironically carrying snowmobiles, was freed and en route to Cody,” the patrol recounted in its post.

The agency went on to say that motorists need to be prepared for changing weather conditions and mountain driving — and to look beyond their GPS for navigation.

“Thankfully this driver was able to utilize his company’s messaging system to get help,” the patrol wrote. “However, with a little trip pre-planning and watching the roadway signs, he wouldn’t have gotten into that predicament.”

For instance, a sign at the Beartooth Highway’s junction with the Chief Joseph Highway said the road closed in 17 miles and a cautionary sign recommends that vehicles that are more than 40 feet in length go a different route. Additionally, both the 511 information service and WYDOT’s travel website (www.wyoroad.info) showed U.S. 212 eastbound as closed, the patrol said.

The National Park Service maintains the part of the highway that lies in Wyoming, but it’s known as an “orphan highway” because no government agency officially claims ownership of the road.

It’s fairly common for drivers to try driving up the snow-covered route in the spring and fall, often with poor results. The most significant incident in recent memory came in late October 2013, when a couple from Wisconsin was left stranded in their car for six nights after following their GPS onto U.S. 212; they eventually were rescued.

“With multiple motorists becoming stranded each year in deep snow, the [Wyoming Highway Patrol] has requested a gate or barrels at the U.S. 212/Wyo. 296 junction and better signage, for the safety of motorists,” the patrol wrote in its Facebook post.

The agency also thanked the National Park Service’s maintenance crew and Park County Search and Rescue for their assistance.

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