By Thomas Lawrence
Public Information Officer, District 10
The selfless and tireless Caltrans District 10 workers at the Peddler Hill maintenance facility on State Route 88 in Amador County do much more than plow snow. For parts of three days in mid-February, that meant combining forces with the U.S. Forest Service (El Dorado), California Highway Patrol, and sheriff's offices of Amador and El Dorado counties to save three lives.
On Feb. 16, two women and a dog began hiking into the wilderness heading due north past the U.S. Forest Service Station in Pioneer – which is not monitored during winter.
The trio did not return before dark.
Thankfully, someone aware of their trek called the Amador County Sheriff's Office, and those officers and the CHP responded with the help of a Caltrans snow blower and a snow plow.
Caltrans used these to remove snow from the Ellis Road area to park search and rescue vehicles. As a result, positive IDs were made on human and dog tracks. But snow was too soft and deep to make any headway the first night. The morning of Feb. 17, a text message came through to one of the missing women's husband saying, "We are OK, we're inside a snow cave."
That's when search and rescue amped up dramatically. Peddler Hill got involved quickly and cleared the deep snow out of the yard to make room for search and rescue vehicles and a helicopter.
The morning of Feb. 18, a CHP helicopter with thermal imaging found the two women and their pup.
The three were airlifted by CHP to a medical-flight helicopter at Peddler Hill – and all three survived. El Dorado County Sheriff's officers kindly mopped and cleaned the office floors at Peddler Hill, left maintenance workers extra sandwiches and coffee, and wrote a big thank you for Caltrans' support.
This is a great reminder that Caltrans – and all public servants – must work as one team, with one vision and one voice, to communicate and sacrifice for one another to keep all human beings safe. All human beings and, of course, our best friend, the dog.