Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Maintenance crew goes above and beyond to help rescue missing traveler

By Mike Allende

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks, and we couldn't be more thankful for the incredible caring actions of our Blewett Pass maintenance crew workers recently.

Lynell McFarland, a 68-year-old woman from Spokane Valley, went missing on Thursday, Nov. 18 after leaving a friend's house in Ellensburg. A Silver Alert was issued and the Kittitas County Sheriff's office launched a search.

Meanwhile, Aaron Byrd, our Maintenance Lead Tech for Blewett Pass, was off duty when he noticed a social media post about the missing person, which included a picture of where her cellphone had last pinged from. He recognized the location and alerted the night maintenance crew, letting them know where to look.

The car of a missing driver who went over an embankment on Blewett Pass was tracked down by our maintenance workers after one of them recognized the location of the last place the cell phone of the driver pinged.

Heading out to the spot near the Blewett Pass summit in snowplows at about 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 22, maintenance techs Koby Todd and Gunnar Lantz checked over an embankment and spotted a vehicle about 40 feet down that matched the description of the car. As you can see in these pictures, it's remarkable they spotted it given that it was dark, the vehicle is black and it was surrounded by trees and debris. Knowing precisely where to look and taking the extra time to do so was vital.

Emergency responders rescue a woman who went over an embankment on Blewett Pass and was stuck in her car for several days until our maintenance team tracked down the car.

Our crew alerted emergency responders who roped down over the embankment. Thankfully, Lynell was still conscious in her vehicle!

She was transported to Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee with minor injuries.

A Silver Alert was issued for Lynell McFarland after she went missing after leaving her friend’s house in Ellensburg. Our maintenance team was able to find her over an embankment near the Blewett Pass summit.

Our road workers look at these type of situations as nothing out of the ordinary – just something they do as part of their job. But we know differently.

Yes, helping the public is something they do every day. But acts like this go above and beyond their normal work, and we couldn't be more proud of them. It was truly extraordinary actions they took to help the stranded woman and we are so grateful to have outstanding people like them working on our roads to help keep the public safe.

We are thankful for them today, and every day. And we're also very thankful that Lynell was rescued and is spending Thanksgiving getting the care she needs.


Philip Smell said...

Is there any kind of acknowledgment program/award that these individuals can be given? This truly is above and beyond. I hope they get the recognition they deserve!

Unknown said...

Great job to a great crew for not only keeping our roads safe, especially in the winter, but going beyond the call of duty to help people in despair..... Thank you!

C McAfee said...

Above and beyond is all I can say…thank you WSDOT Blewett Pass crew for actually checking the area!!! What a fantastic Thanksgiving for this family!

DawnaBond said...

What an amazing story, you could barely see that car! Thank you to the intuitiveness of everyone involved, we are all so fortunate to have such dedicated people caring for not only our roads, but people too!

JD said...

Yeah excellent work you guys that's amazing that you found her over the embankment A++

Unknown said...

Good work and congratulations to Aaron Byrd, Koby Todd, Gunnar Lantz and all others involved. I recall reading a survival story awhile back where a woman's car slid off a remote highway into the trees, resting upside down with her hanging from her seatbelt. She was there for at least 1 week, only having a small bottle of water. Her tale of survival was told in harrowing detail, until by chance a State Patrolman spotted some diminishing tire tracks in the melting snow going over the bank. He investigated and discovered her.
Every since reading that story and being a fieldbeast myself, many times I have thought and verbalized to my coworkers out on the Eastern Region remote highways while looking down steep brushfilled slopes, there could be a wrecked car from long ago down there. Note Sarcastic humor.
A great outcome this time.

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