|NEWS ARTICLE IN THE UINTAH BASIN STANDARD PUBLISHED 9/27/05
Miscommunication Means Long Wait - Rancher critical of response time at scene of death
A Duchesne County rancher and his hired-hand, along with three Duchesne County sheriff’s deputies spent over nine hours in a canyon with the body of a man who died while hunting, waiting for investigators from Wasatch County to arrive.
Lanny Young was herding cattle in Red Creek in Bobby Duke Canyon near Fruitland on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 11, when they found the lone hunter still astride his 4-wheeler.
Young returned to his camp briefly around 3 p.m. to call Central Dispatch in Vernal to report the death. He said the first Duchesne County Sheriff’s deputy arrived within 45 minutes of the call, two others, including undersheriff Wally Hendricks, arrived about an hour later.
It was determined that the hunter, Steven Russell, 53, who lived in the Bandana Ranch area, had in all likelihood suffered a heart attack.
"He was on his 4-wheeler and this was a steep canyon and road and he missed it, but somehow he kept it upright, his feet were still on the boards," said Young.
Russell’s family never came looking for him because he wasn’t expected home until sometime on Monday, according to Young.
When Hendricks determined that the scene of the death was just over the Duchesne County line in Wasatch County, he contacted authorities in Heber City. Young said that’s when the wait really began.
According to Wasatch County Sheriff Ken Van Wagoner, there are two Red Creeks in Wasatch County, due to a miscommunication a deputy new to the area went to the wrong Red Creek — the one on top of a mountain.
"It wasn’t that nobody was responding, they were doing the best they could," said Van Wagoner. "The officer was told Red Creek, there is a Red Creek Mountain and a Red Creek, rather than checking he went up Red Creek Mountain — all the way up, until he got stuck."
Van Wagoner said it was a natural assumption because the Red Creek near Fruitland goes into Wasatch County for a very short distance.
Hendricks and his two deputies waited for the Wasatch County deputy because it was their responsibility as law officers, but Hendricks said Young remained out of a sense of commitment.
"You have to secure the scene. It would be irresponsible of us to abandon the scene," said Hendricks. "Lanny stayed because he really felt obligated to the deceased not to leave him. He wanted to make sure that guy was taken of."
Young, of Utahn, wasn’t aware he would also be dealing with is something the Duchesne County deputies handle routinely — "beauracratic jurisdictional issues."
"Wally called Wasatch County and they told him not to touch it, it was theirs," Young related. "So we stayed on the site ... this is the sad thing — we found him at 3 o’clock in the afternoon and he had been there all that night and it was 2:30 - 3 a.m. the next morning when Wasatch County got there."
Hendricks said he and his men didn’t complain about the length of time it took before Wasatch County deputies arrived to take over the scene. " The sheriff’s office here was just happy to help, sometimes these things happen," he said.
Russell and his wife, Nikki, were the owners of Steel Works Inc. and lived in the Bandana Ranches. Funeral services for Russell were held on Sept. 17, at Valley View Funeral Home Chapel, 4335 West 4100 South in Salt Lake City.