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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.

For my dad, With Love  

I have a happy thought.  A short, and simple thought, but a happy one.

At the game of life, my dad simply won.

That’s a strong statement to say.  But I say it without hesitation because of the obvious truth behind it.  The meaning of life in my book is very simple and straightforward, Leave the world better than where you found it.  An ultimate act of good is one that benefits everyone but yourself.  My dad was the most selfless person I have ever met.  Everything he did, it seemed, was for the benefit of someone else. 

So that’s my happy thought.  Today, we celebrate that he was a great man, and that he won at life. 

He was my inspiration, my guide, and my biggest fan.  He was loved more than anyone will ever know by me.  He was the one who encouraged me to follow my dreams, even when I felt like a complete failure, it was him who told me it was going to be alright and to never stop fighting. Dad never stopped...  Dad was like no one else...  And I am my fathers daughter. 


My dad was a jokester, and that’s something I loved about him.  He would start crap just so he could see the expression on your face.  When my first date came to the house dad said, “Did Georgia tell you we were throwing a party this weekend?”  “She graduated from band-aid’s to walnut shells and a rubber band this week!”  There was another time, that someone came over to our house in Taylorsville and said Wow, this is a really nice house and dad responded with….”Yeah, it cost a lot of money too.  We had to pay extra for them to widen all the door jams so Georgia doesn’t have to walk through sideways anymore.”  He could make fun of the most horrendous situations.


He was a jack of many trades.  He knew all.  Karate, Steel, Hunting, Fishing, and Construction of any kind.  He in fact built his own cabin from the foundation up all by himself.  Although it took him 10 hard years, he finished it just this year.


He taught me everything I know to make me who I am today.  How to drive, how to hunt, how to fight, how to love as the love mom and dad shared,……and perhaps in error – he taught me how to operate a 4-wheeler like he does.


He was head strong.  When he was 14 someone bet him 20 bucks that he couldn’t ride his bike from Parleys Summit to Defa’s Ranch - it was about a 100 mile trip – Uncle Doug & Char started getting worried about him and drove down the canyon to go look for him.  Dad’s handlebars on his bike had broke of so Doug asked him if he wanted a ride the rest of the way.  Dad said no way…Ive all ready come this far, so he put the bike back together as best as he could and rode the rest of the way steering with the front forks of the bike.  But he did it and he got his $20 bucks. 

He stood true to his convictions, he lived those beliefs each and everyday, not wavering or buckling under to pressure from the world around him.  And for this he was respected and admired for being a man of his word.


You’ll be a hard act for us to follow, Dad, as you were really our rock.   You were one of a kind, and will be truly missed by all who knew you.  I love you, I miss you and I will always be thinking of you.  You are always on my mind, forever in my heart, Eternally in my soul and loved endlessly for being who you were to me. 


So, for the remainder of my life, these words will carry me on…..My Father, who art in heaven….

He was born Steven Gill Russell in Salt Lake City, May 24, 1952 and passed away September 10, 2005. He graduated from Granite High School 1970, other achievements included a Brown Belt in Kempo Karate and a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. He pursued his career with Technical schooling in the Steel Fabrication Industry. He later went on to run Structural Steel for 10 years and ultimately opened up his own steel business in 1986 where he and his wife have owned and operated Steel Works Inc. for the past 20 years. Steve was also an avid hunter of ducks and bucks. But his true passion was always searching for the trophy elk with his best friend Bob Larson. Even on the day he passed away, he was found in his camouflage sitting on his 4-wheeler with his hands gripped to the handle bars, ready to ride. He was a devoted family man and spent countless hours helping anyone who needed it. Everyone who knew Steve, knew all you had to do was talk to him and you had an instant friend. Steve is survived by his best friend and wife, Nikki; mother, Carol Russell; two sons, Chris and Brett Russell, and his daughter, Georgia (Allan) Davidson; three sisters, Patty Russell, Dawn (David) Lucas, Sue (Scott) Knaub and brother, Shane (Tammy) Russell. A special thank you goes out to all of our employees at Steel Works who have dedicated themselves through their continued employment to help Steve's legacy live on


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