ELKINS, W.Va. — State Police say it took a lot of effort to locate and rescue three stranded fishermen in the high mountains of Randolph County Monday.

The three victims Billy W. Wilkerson II, 41, and Ricky L. Rohrbaugh, 42, both of Fairmont, and an unidentified 12-year-old boy, walked more than three miles from their vehicle down the mountainside to Shavers Fork for trout fishing.

State Police First Sgt. Greg Stalnaker said they crossed the river and spent the afternoon fishing on Sunday, but when they crossed again at the same spot to head back to their vehicle, the trail was lost.

“The sun heated up and the snow pushed down the laurel and they couldn’t find their tracks to get back out,” Stalnaker said. “They decided then to hunker down and spend the night and they were able to build a fire, but the next day they were still disoriented.”

Troopers were able to locate their vehicle pretty quickly on the Forest Service Road 92 near Files Creek.  U.S. Marshal’s used a ping off their cell phone and were able to narrow their location to a five-mile radius, but the phone eventually died before it could pinpoint the precise location.

Stalnaker said once found, getting to the three was almost as hard as locating them.

“The snow was up to my knees and some of the drifts were four and five feet still,” said Stalnaker.

A large number of the family, friends, and volunteers got involved including a generous resident of Harman who loaned troopers the use of a “snow cat” tracked vehicle to haul the three victims out of the rugged terrain.  There was an attempt to use a helicopter to reach the three but high winds made the aerial rescue too risky.

The victims said they saw the helicopter once, but were under a thick layer of evergreen trees and couldn’t signal.  Stalnaker said the decision by the three to stay put and build a fire probably saved them from a worse fate. Two of the three were taken to Ruby Memorial Hospital suffering from hypothermia and frostbite. The third victim refused treatment.

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Comments

  • francie

    I am a family member of rick. and I want to tell everyone something he goes on fishing trips ALL THE TIME . NOTHING LIKE THIS HAS EVER HAPPEN ,IT WAS JUST A PURE ACCIDENT. AND HE IS A GOOD GUY COACHES SPORTS PUTS HIS KIDS AND ALL KIDS ABOVE EVRYTHING . HE WOULD NEVER INTENTIONALLY PUT ANYONE IN DANGER. SO PLEASE DONT TALK ABOUT HIM AND HIS FRIEND WHEN YOU DONT EVEN KNOW THEM.AND NO MATTER HOW MUCH IT COST 3 LIVES WERE SAVED. THEY SPEND A LOT MORE MONEY CHASING DRUGGIES. AND BELIEVE ME IT WAS AWFUL FOR BOTH FAMILIES AND WE ARE SO APPRECATIVE TO ALL WHO HELP BRING THEM BACK SAFE. I JUST PRAY FOR YOU THAT YOU NEVER HAVE TO GO THROUGH ANYTHING LIKE THIS. MAY GOD BLESS YOU

  • huntstr

    I don't think these men mean any disrespect to the people involved in this. I was a first responder for several years and have been in similar searches, some turned out good ,some not so good. I think what some of you don't understand is this could of been alot worse and totally avoidable. For one, you do not go into that area without knowing what your doing its that simple. I would imagine the guys that's saying this, grew up in the mountains like myself. Secondly, if you are physically unable to make that kind of hike, don't. And finally, don't go into a area like that completely unprepared. Don't assume you are coming home that night. Assume , you might have to stay there a night. I'm glad they were found and are safe, it had to be torture for the families.

    • WVtrailrunner

      Ummmm, they built a fire and waited till they could get oriented or get help. Sounds to me like they knew exactly what they were doing.

      Also, i find it a bit unfair to say that you should not engage in an activity just because your body cant handle an extreme possibility of that activity. I do not know the men in this story, or what exactly went down , but I would rather die in the woods than live on a couch.

  • Cheif Chris Wilkinson

    That is some fine police work guys. Hats off to all Police depts involved.

  • Sunshine

    Glad all was found OK, prayers to them and all the families..and to Rick, Larry, Tom..sounds like you all must be related and are "PERFECT"..wow maybe one day your luck will run out and need help and not a single person will lend a hand. You all don't even deserve to be called American citizens..Grow up !!

  • SamWvu304

    Isn't that how the Cheat river and mountain got the name? I was always told they would (Cheat)people of their lives. Glad there were caring people to help them escape the fate the Mountains may have had otherwise. May God Bless the fisher of men.

  • rick

    It appears that this trio was totally ill prepared for a fishing trip in the snow around Cheat Mt. Not sure if they did not know the way back or just was not in shape enough to walk back in he snow. This was totally preventable and put others in harm's way to rescue them.

  • Janeen, Darius & Dante

    We was so worried....this man and his family have always been wonderful to my son's...Billy coached my boys in baseball and they just love him and look up to him...We are so happy they were found....prayers really do work....I know cause I didn't stop praying.

  • Quirks

    Hey Tom !! I hope I never get to meet you ! My son attends school with the boy. His father takes his son to the outdoors as well as I do. No one ever wants this to happen to them. You want to put a price tag for help ?!! SHAME ON YOU !!

  • June

    You cannot put a price tag on a life. So glad this story had a happy ending. Kudos to all involved in rescuing the three fishermen.

  • Tom P.

    How much did it cost, and how many hours were spent, to rescue the three fisherman who were ill-prepared for their little Sunday afternoon adventure. Irresponsible behavior can put an enormous strain on the limited budgets of our public safety departments.

    • steve

      You sir must be one nem wv couch taters

    • steve

      You, sir are an arse

    • John

      Tom, this is an example of why the departments are there. Its like complaining that people are using food stamps for food only. This is the job of the department, to help those in need.

    • Barbara

      Tom You are a JERK!!!!!!!!

    • Missy

      Is this Tom serious??? How could you speak such a response. So your implying their missing person report should have been ignored??? We're you directly involved?? Apparently not, you should seek The Lord and repent for your sins. Your lack of compassion makes me SICK!! There is so much money "wasted" on a lot less important circumstances! You should honestly be ashamed.

    • Larry

      I am glad they are ok, and I mean no disrespect to any of them, but I agree with Tom, I'm guessing it cost in the thousands, with all the helicopters, vehicles, fuel, etc., and again, you can pick up a hand held GPS for around $100.

    • Kelsey

      Wow. I am extremely appalled by your comment. That is very disrespectful to the families of the father, son, and friend. Accidents happen some time, put yourself in the shoes of the family members who had a missing loved one. With my feelings put aside since I personally knew the 3 that were missing, shame on you.

    • Tonya Jenkins

      Oh my... I really pray that anyone in your family is ever in the situation where they need help. I am quite sure this father didn't take his son out for a day of fishing thinking they were going to get lost. A father, son and a friends life is irreplaceable. Thank god there are wonderful people out there still willing to lend a hand in the search and NO BUDGETS will be blown!

    • MaryKay

      I went to school with one of these guys and he knows the woods and his way around. This was a horrible accident. What if it was you in that situation and we didn't want to 'waste' the money on you? These guys are worth every penny! So glad it had a good outcome! Shame on you for judging people you don't know! Love to Bill and family!

    • Toni

      My daughter attends school with this young boy. Accidents happen. Who are we to judge others? And I can tell you that there isn't a price tag available to put on a child's head. Think before you speak.

  • Larry

    Handheld gps units have become very affordable, no reason an avid trout fisherman shouldn't be able to afford one.

    • John

      In a lot of WV backwoods, gps systems are useless. I doesn't even recognize where I live when driving on the road.

      • Bitmapped

        The GPS units don't need to show the roads to be helpful in this sort of situation. At the most basic level, you record the coordinates where you parked your car and the GPS will give you an arrow and distance showing how to get back there. Most handheld GPS units will also record your path so you can follow back the same exact way.

    • Barbara

      Larry and Tom,,,You two must be friends..You are BOTH jerks!!!!!

  • Steve

    I know all 3 and would like to say "Thank you to all who participated in the search and rescue of Billy, Garrett and Rick!"

  • Brian

    Great story! Good job wv metro news! It really shows how WV folks can work together when it really counts - from volunteers to rescue officials right down to the fellow that loaned out the snow cat.

    • Toni

      That is so very true. Thanks to all those involved in the search and rescue. It is good to know there are still caring folks out there in this crazy world.

  • Bondo

    My Grandpa has found many lost folks just like these guys in the same area. They don't have any buisness up there during the summer let alone in the middle of winter. They don't know enough about the area. It takes years. I grew up on that mountain.