The bodies of two men, presumed to be those of Ryan Wells, 30, and Richard "Ricky" Colton, 30, both of Delta, were retrieved from Island Lake Monday afternoon by members of two Summit County Search and Rescue teams using a remote operated vehicle, or ROV. The ROV was able to locate the snowcat the men were reportedly driving across the lake, as well as the two bodies, in approximately 65 feet of water.
The two men had been reported overdue Sunday, Feb. 3. At about 11 a.m., deputies were dispatched to Grand Mesa Lodge, where they met with the owner, Michael Wenner. Wenner advised the deputies that three males and a female had come to the lodge Saturday afternoon and requested to rent a room for the night. Wells booked the room; the other two parties, later located safely at home, were Dustin Gray, 30, of Delta, and Kandi Casaus, 38, of Cedaredge. Deputies learned Wells and Colton failed to check out at 10 a.m. and all their belongings were still in the room.
Photo courtesy Delta County Sheriff's Dept. Wenner advised the deputies that Wells had brought up a privately owned snowcat to the lodge and asked questions about taking it out on the ice. Wells was advised that was not a good idea due to the weight of the snowcat (approximately 15,000 pounds). The owner also advised deputies that at about 1 a.m. Sunday he woke to the sound of the snowcat starting.
Later that morning, when he noticed the snowcat missing from the area, he assumed it had broken down, stranding the two men somewhere on the mesa. Delta County Search and Rescue was notified and responded to the lodge.
According to a press release issued by Delta County Sheriff Mark Taylor, a family member of Wells also responded to the lodge with a snowmobile. He located tracks from the snowcat leading onto the ice of Island Lake. The family member followed the tracks approximately 150 yards to the middle of the lake and located a large hole in the ice, indicating the snowcat had broken through the ice.
Delta County Search and Rescue combed the lake and shore looking for any indication the two missing men had gotten out of the snowcat before it broke through the ice. No evidence was located that would indicate anyone walked away from the broken ice.
Beginning search of Island Lake with ROV. Photo courtesy Delta County Sheriff's Dept. At that point, the sheriff reached out to the Colorado Search and Rescue Board for assistance. Members of the Summit County rescue teams arrived on Grand Mesa mid-afternoon Monday. The Delta County SAR team maneuvered the ROV close enough to extend a retractable arm and retrieve the two bodies. They were brought to the surface where SAR team members were able to remove them from the lake.
The bodies of the two men were transferred to the Delta County coroner for positive identification.
Sheriff Taylor thanked the Summit County Sheriff Jamie FitzSimons and the Summit County SAR team for responding so quickly and professionally to assist with this tragic incident. He added his thanks to the Delta County SAR team, an all-volunteer team comprised of Delta County residents for their hard work and dedication in extreme weather conditions to bring some type of closure to the families of these two men.