Teton County Search & Rescue was notified at 6:25 pm on Tuesday, August 2, that lightning had struck a group of backpackers camped at Enos Lake in the Teton Wilderness. One person, a 22-year-old male, died in the incident, while another, an adult male, sustained significant injuries.
The lightning bolt reportedly hit the backpackers at camp. The men were part of a group of 14 adults on an organized wilderness trip.
TCSAR mobilized a response by issuing a request for the interagency helicopter from Teton Helitack. The request was approved, and the helicopter flew three SAR volunteers to the site on Tuesday evening. CPR had been in progress for more than an hour when the ship landed with the SAR team members. TCSAR members took over, but the patient could not be revived.
The helicopter did two flights out. In the first, the ship flew the injured patient and one SAR member out of the backcountry. The injured patient was transferred to an ambulance in Moran, transported to St. John’s Health, and then flown to Eastern Idaho Medical Center. The helicopter returned to the scene for a second flight and transported the deceased patient to the Jackson Hole Airport, where the Teton County Coroner met him. Out of respect for the family, TCSAR is not releasing the name or residence of the deceased.
Due to nightfall and inclement weather, the helicopter could not return to the scene on Tuesday. The two remaining SAR members stayed overnight to manage the scene and support the other party members.
In the morning, the TCSAR volunteers on scene communicated to Incident Command that two additional party members would need an air evac from the backcountry. Enos Lake is a 12-mile hike from the Pacific Creek Trailhead. There was concern that the two individuals would not be able to make it due to acute emotional reactions and medical concerns exacerbated by the long hike out. TCSAR again requested the interagency helicopter, but lingering fog delayed a flight until after 11 am. When the weather cleared, the interagency helicopter flew to the site, picked up the two additional patients and two SAR members, and transported them out of the backcountry.
According to the National Lightning Safety Council, this was the first lightning fatality in Wyoming this year and the ninth in the U.S.
TCSAR recognizes the tragedy of this rare event and extends its sincere condolences to the deceased man’s family, friends, and everyone involved in the incident. The team also appreciates the partnership with Teton Helitack and support from Grand Teton National Park that facilitated the use of the interagency helicopter.