Four snowmobilers were rescued Saturday night from the ice of the Big Iron River by a pair of conservation officers who risked their own safety to find the riders and bring them back to waiting emergency crews.
The ordeal began at about 6:30 p.m. EST Saturday, when Negaunee Regional Dispatch broadcast a report of snowmobilers being separated from their larger group. They were now stranded on the river, south of White Pine.
Michigan Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officers Jenni Hanson and Zach Painter – who typically patrol Gogebic County – had been working earlier in the day near Bergland with U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer Josh Lopac.
The three officers were working to police careless snowmobiling Saturday in Ontonagon County.
“We work together a lot,” Painter said. “There’s a lot of land in this part of the Upper Peninsula that’s part of the Ottawa National Forest.”
That same day, Painter had responded to a personal injury accident, involving a snowmobiler who struck a tree and had to be airlifted to a Wisconsin hospital. Hanson had been assisting with a women’s snowmobile clinic in Bergland. She was on her way home when the call came in.
One of the members from an original group of seven or eight snowmobilers made his way back 10 or 15 miles to the Konteka Black Bear Resort in White Pine.
From there, police were alerted that four riders had not kept up with the group. They were now stranded where their sleds became stuck in slush in the middle of the river.
Painter said the snowmobilers had ridden up the river, which is illegal under federal regulations, to do some backcountry off-trail riding. Hanson, Painter and Lopac, along with an Ontonagon County Sheriff’s