Hunters survive mishap

Stranded man, sons found after two days

A four-wheel drive hub failure and a lack of communication with family were key factors in the temporary disappearance of a Wyoming man and his twin sons.

Victor Bertagnolli, 35, and his 10-year-old sons were found on Kinny's Rim in Wyoming Wednesday after being stranded there since Monday. Sweetwater County Sheriff's deputies and volunteers rescued the three hunters from the remote area near Pine Butte at approximately 11:30 a.m., after they were spotted from the air.

Bertagnolli and his sons had left for a one-day hunting trip Monday morning, and were reported missing by Bertagnolli's girlfriend and ex-wife at 1 a.m. Tuesday.

"I thought it would take them at least four days to find us," Bertagnolli said. "I didn't expect to be found until today. I just let the kids eat I rationed out the food we brought with us, letting them eat once a day, and made sure we took it easy on the water.

"The boys did pretty well, better than most grown-ups would have handled [being stranded]. They were a little shook up after we were picked up, but they handled everything well."

Bertagnolli said he and his sons are going hunting again this season.

After the four-wheel drive hub failed, Bertagnolli ran the engine periodically to keep the truck heated, but the battery died Monday evening.

The father and his two sons waited in their 1985 Chevrolet one-ton pickup until being rescued Wednesday.

Staying with the truck is one of the good choices Bertagnolli made during this trip, according to Moffat County Sheriff Buddy Grinstead.

"The biggest thing that Bertagnolli did right was staying with the truck, for a couple of reasons one, it's much easier to spot a truck, and, two, in an area like that, it was the only shelter around," he said. "In Wyoming and in parts of our county, the wind is always blowing, and nothing zaps heat away faster than the wind."

Bringing plenty of food, water and extra clothing also helped Bertagnolli brave the elements, Grinstead said.

"His biggest mistake was that he didn't tell anyone where they were going," Grinstead said. "We'd much rather search a five- or 10-square-mile area than a 500-square-mile area.

"His second mistake was not bringing a charger for his cell phone. [Bertagnolli] has his phone with him, which was good, but he didn't have the right kind of charger.

Law enforcement technology allows officials to triangulate off a phone's signals to repeater towers to narrow down a search, which speeds the process up quite a bit."

Grinstead estimated that the bill Bertagnolli will receive from the Moffat County Sheriff's Office for overtime for deputies, mileage reimbursement and other expenses would be $600.

Bertagnolli doesn't have a Colorado hunting, hiking or other recreational license. The search expenses from Moffat County would have been covered if Bertagnolli had a Colorado recreational license, and had opted to pay the Search and Rescue fund fee when applying for that license.

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