Rancher Describes Finding Lost Wisconsin Couple - KULR-8 Television, Billings, MT

Rancher Describes Finding Lost Wisconsin Couple

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NORTHWEST WYOMING -

The Wyoming rancher who found and rescued the Wisconsin couple that was lost and stranded on a snowy mountain for six days says he is no hero. But, he just may have saved their lives.

Troy Barnett is a rancher and outfitter in northwest Wyoming. He had just returned from a hunting trip Sunday when his wife told him about a Wisconsin couple who were lost. The Sheriff's Office had issued an alert that Mark and Kristine Wathke were missing after leaving Yellowstone's northeast entrance Tuesday afternoon.

"Kind of knew right off, there's pretty much one place they could be being gone that long," said Troy Barnett, K Bar Z Ranch owner.

Barnett says he couldn't sleep that night, "just thinking about it."

Monday morning, he drove north to the Beartooth Highway, which is not plowed this time of year. Hunters still drive up the road, but two signs alert motorists the road is closed ahead. The Wisconsin couple drove past the signs. But as they went up the road, the snow got deeper. They got stuck about 16 miles from here. When Barnett found them, they had been stranded six days.

Barnett hauled his snowmobile up on his pickup twelve miles, then drove another four on the sled. He says when he first saw the car, he feared the worst.

"There was no movement or nothing until I actually parked the snowmobile right by the car," Barnett said.

Then, he says, the door flew open. He says there were tears.

"There had to be a few emotions and thoughts in their head that they weren't going to be found."

Barnett says the couple appeared to be unhurt. He put them on his snowmobile, and drove it as he stood on the side rail. He took them back to his ranch, where they called their families, and he called the Sheriff's Office. Barnett says the last time he saw them was when the authorities took then away.

Does he think of himself as a hero? Not one minute.

"It's not the first time we've helped people," he said. "My wife was a first responder for twenty years in this area."

The couple was trying to drive to Miles City. Barnett says they took the closed Beartooth Highway because their GPS unit recommended that route.

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