Wyoming news briefs for June 24
Park pursues new tip in search for hiker
JACKSON — A new tip on missing hiker Cian McLaughlin has triggered new searches around Bradley and Taggart lakes, Grand Teton National Park officials said Wednesday.
A Jackson resident who recently returned from an international trip came forward with the new information, park officials said in a news release. The reporting party described seeing McLaughlin in the late afternoon or early evening June 8 — the last day McLaughlin was seen — on the south side of the Bradley-Taggart moraine.
“The individual reported McLaughlin was headed south towards Taggart Lake and had a conversation with McLaughlin where he described where he worked, that he’s from Ireland, and currently living in Jackson,” the park news release said. “The reporting party continued hiking towards Bradley Lake and did not see McLaughlin again that evening.”
Based on that tip, the park initiated additional searches around Bradley and Taggart lakes. Park staff also searched the Phelps Lake area, which McLaughlin reportedly likes to visit. No evidence or clues of McLaughlin’s whereabouts were identified, the release said.
At its peak the search for valley resident and Dublin native McLaughlin was massive. Up to 70 park staff each day and several dog teams searched the park’s trails, canyons and woods for six days straight.
Since McLaughlin was reported missing — four days after he was last seen June 8 — the park’s investigation team spoke with more than 140 people with tips and information. More than 45 helicopter search missions were conducted, some using RECCO rescue technology and thermal imaging cameras.
Boy killed in motorcycle accident
RIVERTON — A 10-year-old Pavillion boy died Tuesday after a two-vehicle collision in rural Fremont County.
Officials said the boy was operating a motorcycle which collided with an F150 pickup truck at about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in the 400 block of Gabes Road southeast of Pavillion.
The reporting party said the incident involved a vehicle and a “dirt bike,” with the “conscious” rider possibly having suffered a broken leg.
Both vehicles were still on scene, according to the initial report.
An ambulance responded along with law enforcement and firefighters, and officials said the boy was taken to SageWest Health Care at Riverton, where he later died as a result of injuries suffered in the crash.
“This is a very devastating incident for everyone involved, and to the entire community as a whole,” Fremont County Sheriff Ryan Lee said Wednesday.
He would not release further details Wednesday – including the identities of those involved in the incident.
The collision and fatality remain under investigation by the Fremont County Sheriff ’s Office and the Fremont County Coroner’s Office, with assistance from the Wyoming Highway Patrol.
Park County lodging taxes up 471%
CODY — If May is any sign of what’s to come, this should be a profitable summer season for lodging tax collections.
Retiring Park County Travel Council director Claudia Wade told members lodging taxes were up 471 percent from May of last year.
Part of that spike is due to the pandemic affecting the state heavily last May, but even so, Wade said she had budgeted for a little more than $30,000 in collections. Instead, $57,971 was brought in for May.
“This is a phenomenal collection for this month,” Wade said.
Last year roughly $10,000 was collected.
Year to date, collections are up 15 percent and good projections are set to continue, with more of Yellowstone’s hotel rooms opening up, Xanterra CEO Rick Hoeninghausen said.
“Estimating $95,000 lodging tax for August may be very conservative,” Wade said.
Fremont County, Shoshone Forest adopt fire bans
RIVERTON — Fremont County and the Shoshone National Forest both have implemented fire bans, effective immediately.
The restrictions are taking effect earlier than usual due to an increase in heat and dry conditions locally, Fremont County Fire Warden Craig Haslam said Wednesday.
“It definitely wasn’t an easy decision,” Haslam said, noting the approach of the Fourth of July holiday, celebration of which traditionally involves fireworks.
Under the fire ban, discharge of Class A, B or C fireworks is prohibited on all state and private land within unincorporated areas of the county, including roads, easements, and rights-of-way.
“It’s just not something we like to do before the Fourth of July and everything,” Haslam said. “But we’re having unseasonably low humidity and no precipitation and hotter weather and it just is putting everything together –– the cheat grass is all cured out, and there’s a lot of fuel out there, and we’re just afraid, with the right spark, we could have a large fire in Fremont County. “We wanted to stay away from that.”
Fire restrictions will begin Friday in the Shoshone National Forest west of Lander, and Haslam anticipated that the Bureau of Land Management would issue its own fire ban soon.
SNF officials said their decision was based on moisture measurements in vegetation and other risk factors, including predicted weather and current fire activity.
“With increasing fire danger, we are implementing these restrictions to protect public health and safety,” SNF supervisor Lisa Timchak said. “These fire restrictions will remain in place on the entirety of the Shoshone National Forest until further notice.”
Misunderstanding leads to chase
POWELL — When an officer spotted a Honda Pilot speeding out of Powell earlier this month, he attempted to pull the vehicle over. But the driver did not stop.
As the officer continued following the Honda on U.S. Highway 14-A, with lights and siren activated, he asked a dispatcher to pull the registration information for the Idaho license plates; the data made it unclear whether the plate actually belonged with the Pilot.
At that point, “it had the potential of possibly being a stolen vehicle,” explained Lt. Matt McCaslin, “so that kind of ups the game a little bit.”
The driver finally pulled over around Garland, shortly after 8:15 p.m. on June 5.
Given the circumstances, the responding officer conducted what’s known as a high-risk traffic stop, ordering the driver out of the car at gunpoint.
Only then did everyone realize there had been a misunderstanding. As it turned out, the driver was a resident of China, who said he’d simply missed the 35 mph speed limit sign in Powell and apparently didn’t know he needed to stop for the officer.
“Evidently, in China, unless you hear the siren, you just maintain your speed and the police will go around and you don’t pull over for them,” McCaslin said. “He didn’t hear the siren, apparently.”
The Powell officer wound up issuing the driver a warning for speeding and allowed him and his two passengers to continue their travels.
Crook County approves fire ban
SUNDANCE — A full fire ban went into effect across Crook County on Thursday when the county commissioners met to consider the request from Fire Warden Doug Leis and approve the associated ordinance.
Due to the high fire danger and the number of fires that local volunteers have tackled over the past couple of weeks, the commission agreed that the restrictions should begin the same day.
The resolution also recommends that the cities and towns within Crook County and the federal agencies managing the forests, Devils Tower National Monument and BLM follow suit in banning fireworks within their jurisdictions.
“If permitted, there is no guarantee that county fire units will be able to respond for assistance,” the resolution states.
According to the resolution, fireworks and outdoor fires including trash, camp and charcoal fires are now prohibited in the unincorporated areas of the county.
Smoking is prohibited except in enclosed vehicles or buildings, developed recreation sites or in a barren area at least three feet in diameter and cigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco must be extinguished and disposed of properly and must not be thrown from vehicles.
The restrictions will remain in place until October 15 unless lifted earlier.