Morrow County Sheriff’s deputies rescue man who fled accident scene in bad weather

On February 14, 2019 at 11:36pm the Morrow County Sheriff’s Office Communication Center received a request from the Oregon State Police to dispatch fire and medical to I-84 mile post 175 for a single vehicle accident.  A passerby advised the vehicle was on its top in the median.  The driver of the vehicle fled the scene on foot and was last seen walking west bound on the east bound side of I-84.  At 11:45pm Morrow County Deputies arrived on scene and started canvassing the area in an attempt to locate the subject, later identified as Justin Don Connell (26) of Boardman.  Due to evidence located on scene, a temperature of 23 degrees and heavy fog, first responders felt an urgency to locate Connell.  Deputies located and started following tracks in an attempt to locate Connell. Deputies Way and Wasserman followed the tracks on foot while Deputy Adams, Deputy Neubert and Sgt. Braun were searching the roads.  The tracks in the snow indicated Connell was running and had fallen down several times.  The tracks seemed to indicate the subject was attempting to elude deputies and changed directions several times.  Deputies found Connell was going in circles and even making snow angels in the snow.  Boardman Fire and EMS responded and staged in the area and Morrow County Emergency Management was notified and began monitoring. 

At approximately 2:30am, the focus changed from pursuing a possible suspect to a search and rescue event due to temperature, wind chill, increasing snowfall and limited visibility.  Morrow County Sheriff’s Office requested assistance from Umatilla County and US Fish and Wildlife (K9). Josh Hindman with US Fish and Wildlife was able to deploy his K9 and continue to track.  At approximately 3:46am, Justin Connell was located approximately four miles southwest of I-84, unresponsive and suffering from Severe Hyperthermia.  Deputies carried Connell to a Morrow County Sheriff’s Office vehicle and transported him to the Boardman Ambulance. All other responding resources were stood down.  Connell was transported to Good Shepherd Hospital for treatment and later transferred to Kadlec Hospital in Tri-Cities.  The investigation continues with charges pending.

MCSO wishes to thank the following agencies:  Boardman Fire, Boardman Ambulance, Oregon State Police, US Fish and Wildlife’s Josh Hindman (K9) and Matthew Pells for their efforts, as well as Umatilla County Search and Rescue for their availability.  Additional thanks to Sgt. Braun, Deputy Adams and Deputy Neubert for their persistence in locating Connell and to Deputy Walton, Deputy Armato and Deputy Kennedy for maintaining an organized operation from the communications center.  We would a especially like to recognize Deputy Way and Deputy Wasserman for going the extra miles during their long track of Connell on foot, in knee high snow and very cold weather.  This was a successful search and rescue due to the efforts of all involved and a great example of teamwork.

To all involved JOB WELL DONE!                                 

John A. Bowles