Sheriff: Woman safe after being staying 2 days in desert with disabled car

Search and rescue crews usually huddle up for a briefing before breaking out in teams, as seen here in a search for Berry Howard on May 4, 2017.

JORDAN VALLEY — After walking in the desert for two days, a Boise man finally made it back to civilization to report that the woman he had been traveling with was still out in a car, where she had stayed behind after it got stuck.

The two were attempting to get to Jordan Craters.

According to Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe, the call came in at about 9 a.m. Tuesday from the man’s uncle who had just picked him up in Jordan Valley and was taking him to Canyon County. This is because getting stuck caused Michael Sletten, 48, to miss his court appearance. Sletten was able to describe the area where he thought the vehicle was to deputies, but ended up going to jail after court and was unable to help any further.

The area the vehicle was eventually found was about 20 miles away from where deputies were told it was located. This is likely due to the fact that they set off on the excursion at dark, Wolfe said.

According to Wolfe, the 35-year-old Nampa woman stayed behind because she didn’t have proper clothing or shoes to hike in.

Sletten set off and told deputies it took him two days to get back to the highway, which they were about 4.5 miles away from. This is because he walked the wrong way.

“He walked all the way out the Owyhee Canyon, then turned around and walked back,” Wolfe said, adding that the man said he walked day and night for two days.

The woman had a little bit of water and no food, but there was a sleeping bag in the car, according to the sheriff.

Search and rescue crews spent all day Tuesday searching in very windy conditions. When the wind finally died down, they were able to get help from Skinner Ranch in Jordan Valley, who sent two ranchers along with an airplane. They were out long enough to have to refuel once, and near dark, when a call came through on the radio, Wolfe said he expected it to be them saying they had to land. Instead, they called to let them know they found the vehicle.

So they landed the plane and the ranchers led searchers into the vehicle.

“They were off road, in a really rugged area, and had gotten stuck in some badger holes, of all things, and they couldn’t get out,” Wolfe said.

The sheriff said the 2015 Ford Focus wasn’t even on a two-track road. At some point it had been driven off the road and out into the terrain for about a-quarter to a-half a mile.

The woman was in good shape when she was found.

“She was hungry, and more than anything, she was thirsty,” he said.

While the Skinners are not part of the Search and Rescue Crew, Wolfe said the relationship with the ranchers is “a very valuable asset,” as they have flown in that area for years. He said they are always willing to help out when they can and even though it’s a busy time on the ranch, when the weather was favorable to fly, they broke away to help.

“Had they not, we would not have found her,” he said. “It’s really cold out there, fortunately it wasn’t wet and fortunately it didn’t cost any lives or any other complications.

“We’re very happy that she was located,” Wolfe said.

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