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Deschutes SAR volunteers say it's a big payoff

By Kim Tobin
Published On: Feb 26 2013 09:15:53 PM CST

NewsChannel 21's Kim Tobin spoke with Deschutes Co. Search and Rescue volunteers about the commitment it takes to be apart of the team and how rewarding it is to keep Central Oregonians safe.

BEND, Ore. -

If it wasn't for more than 70 searchers, many of them with the Deschutes County Sheriff's Search and Rescue, a mission to find a father and son could have ended very differently. One volunteer said Tuesday to be a part of the team is rewarding day after day.

"You know, if you're going to get lost, Deschutes County is a pretty good place to get lost," said long-time volunteer Al Hornish. "We have an incredible community, and Search and Rescue is a community event. We really come together."

Hornish has been volunteering with Deschutes County's SAR unit for more than 13 years. He was the SAR manager on Monday, as the team searched for Eric Abney and his 13-year-old son Hunter.

The pair braved a cold night in the wilderness after they got lost, and their snowmobiles ran out of gas.

"I can't believe how fast they found us, " said Eric. "I fully expected one, maybe two to three more days before we saw any sign of anyone getting close."

But when they heard the snowmobiles roaring in, they knew they were saved.

"When the snowmobiles came by, it was a mini-heart attack," Hunter said. "I just jumped out and said, 'Hey, hey!'"

It's another successful mission for SAR, but there are times they have to prepare themselves to expect the worst.

"Everyone on the team feels very good about providing the service, helping someone in need," Hornish said. "Unfortunately, sometimes we are recovering a body. But still, we feel good about bringing closure to a family."

But their most recent rescue ended happily. As Abney said thank you to the volunteers, his eyes filled with tears.

"Thank you doesn't even do it," Eric said. "I mean, tonight was going to be rough. What do you say, you know? Thanks."

"When Hunter, the young man, 13 years old, took off his helmet and gave us a smile," said Hornish. "All of us said, 'Hey, that's all the reward we need.'"

Coincidentally, on Tuesday, the night after the big rescue, 10 Barrel Brewing Co. in Bend held a big fund-raiser for SAR. All the proceeds of food, drinks, and even to-go orders went to SAR to help them with training and additional supplies that sometimes can't fit in the sheriff's office budget.

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