A young woman airlifted out of Herron Park on Sunday wasn’t cross-country skiing, as initially reported.
She was out trudging through the snow in search of her missing corgi Milo when she got lost and collapsed from exhaustion alone in the woods.
But her harrowing adventure Sunday gave way to good news Monday afternoon when the 9-month-old dog was rescued.
The drama began to unfold Saturday when Allyson Sempek and a friend spent seven hours searching for the small dog after he got spooked and ran off. Unsuccessful in their search for Milo Saturday, they resumed their search at sunrise on Sunday.
Around midday the pair split up.
“I went up, he took a different trail thinking we would meet up in the end,” Sempek said.
But they didn’t.
Sempek, who turns 20 this week, went off trail several miles, by her own estimate. Hours later, trying to find her way back to the trail, she found herself on the wrong side of a mountain just as it was starting to get dark out.
Sempek tried to retrace her steps but became exhausted trudging through the knee-deep snow. Finally her leg gave out and she collapsed.
“I hadn’t eaten all day. I was exhausted,” she said. “I started to go in and out of consciousness.”
Sempek said she also started to hyperventilate from her asthma, but she had her inhaler in her backpack.
She also had a cellphone. With that, she was able to call her mother, Nancy, to say she was lost in the woods, and then call 911 for help.
Flathead County Search and Rescue crews mobilized to head out on the trails on snowmobile to look for the young woman. The ALERT helicopter also went out, and after several passes overhead was able to spot Sempek in the snow. The helicopter landed and took her to the hospital for treatment.
“They got there and took my vitals. I had low blood pressure, low blood sugar. I was starting to go into hypothermic shock,” Sempek said.
“It’s like a nightmare. ... I can’t believe all that’s happened.”
On Monday, that nightmare turned to joy. The young woman got a big surprise when she was sitting in the comfort of her own home and was unexpectedly reunited with Milo.
A fellow corgi owner had seen missing posters for Milo either at Herron Park or on Facebook and happened to see the dog at the park.
The woman called to Milo and he came right over to her. She then called Nancy Sempek to let her know she had Milo and that he was alive and well after a couple of nights out in the snow and cold.
“We’re all so happy and relieved,” Nancy Sempek said Monday evening as the family was scheduling a visit with a veterinarian to get Milo checked out. “And fortunately, we’re no worse for the wear.”
Reporter Tom Lotshaw may be reached at 758-4483 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.