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Two former National Park Rangers are missing and presumed dead in Yellowstone National Park. On Sunday, September 19, a family member alerted authorities that the two men, Mark O’Neill, 67, and Kim Crumbo, 74 were overdue from their four-day backcountry canoe trip. Park crews quickly assembled and located a vacant campsite on the south side of Shoshone Lake in the southwest corner of the park that same day. Searchers also found a canoe, paddle, personal flotation device, and other belongings on the east shore of the lake.
The following day, search and rescue crews located the body of O’Neill, from Chimacum, Washington, along the east shore of Shoshone Lake. Crumbo, who is from Ogden, Utah, and is O’Neill’s half-brother, remains missing.
Both O’Neill and Crumbo were retired from the National Park Service. Crumbo’s two decades with the organization included working as a river ranger and wilderness coordinator in Grand Canyon National Park, as well as a park ranger. Crumbo, a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, was also a former Navy SEAL, river guide, and conservationist.
There are only two ways to get to Shoshone Lake, Yellowstone’s largest backcountry lake at more than 8,000 acres: by trail or by water. The shortest hike is a relatively easy 6-mile roundtrip hike from Delacy Creek Trailhead. The standard paddling route crosses Lewis Lake to the Lewis River Channel and on to Shoshone and is done as a multi-day trip.
Yellowstone’s situation report notes that the Lewis River Channel is cold and swift and that high winds are a daily occurrence on both Lewis and Shoshone Lakes. The park experienced its first snowstorm of the season on Sunday, which closed several roads due to wintry conditions, including a section of Grand Loop Road near Shoshone Lake. The average year-round water temperature in Shoshone Lake is about 48°F. Survival time is estimated to be only 20 to 30 minutes in water of this temperature, Yellowstone said in a release.
The incident has rattled the NPS ranger community, which knew the two men as highly experienced in the backcountry. Between them, they’d spent decades navigating remote waters and conducting operations like the one focused on their apparent accident.
According to the park service, “search and rescue personnel continue to look for Crumbo by foot, helicopter and boat at Shoshone Lake and will continue for the next several days as conditions warrant.”