Location: Balch Park, Springville

Incident Date: 02/01/2016

Incident Time: 0100 hours

Case Number: 16-01332

City: Springville

Posted by: Media Relations

On Monday Feb. 1 at approximately 0100 hours, The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office received a call regarding a disabled vehicle that was stuck in the snow near Balch Park at an elevation of 6,000 feet in the mountains above Springville. The vehicle was occupied by Josh Vanleeuwen, 37, of Hayfork, California, and his two children ages 12 and 17.

On Sunday, a heavy winter storm brought approximately two feet of fresh snow to the area making travel impossible. Vanleeuwen and his children were caught by the storm which moved in very quickly, burying their vehicle. He was able to send sporadic text messages to a family friend who contacted the Sheriff’s Office. 

Members of The Tulare County Sheriff's Alpine Search & Rescue Unit responded at 0200 hours Monday morning but were unable to reach the stranded vehicle until approximately 0700 hours as rescuers were impeded by fresh waist deep snow and downed trees. The three were successfully rescued and transported to safety by backcountry snowmobiles. No one suffered any injuries.

The Sheriff’s Office would like to remind anyone traveling in the mountains of the following winter safety tips: 

•    Always check the weather before heading out.
•    Make sure your vehicle is equipped and able to handle winter driving conditions. 
•    Most mountain roads above 4,000 feet will require vehicles to have snow chains. Check before you leave.
•    Have a plan and stick to it.
•    Always tell someone your route, destination and when you expect to be home.
•    Never, under any circumstances drive around or ignore a ROAD CLOSED sign.
•    For additional winter travel information and tips, go to the California Department of Transportation website or the following link: http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/roadinfo/wntrdriv.htm. 


Photo caption: Members of the Tulare County Sheriff's Search and Rescue Team pause for a photo after rescuing a man and his two children Feb. 1 who were stuck in the snow at Balch Park in Springville.