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The semi truck driver got stuck Nov. 27 on the closed Beartooth Highway. (Wyoming Highway Patrol photo)

The Wyoming Highway Patrol is reminding motorists to not always trust their GPS after responding to a semi driver stranded on the closed Beartooth Highway.

The driver was able to drive out after getting stuck in a ditch due to the slick conditions, they were hauled back on the road by Eagle Recovery.

“Even on my phone, it doesn’t show the road’s closed yet,” said Eagle Recovery owner Mike Wood last Thursday. “We got him turned around, got him back down. He was able to drive out downhill, just following our tracks.”

Just before noon on Nov. 27, troopers responded to the tractor trailer 5 miles east of WYO 296 on the Beartooth Highway.

Park County Search and Rescue was dispatched as well, believing they’d have to snowmobile in to retrieve the stranded driver and his passenger, Lt. Lee Pence wrote.

However, the trooper was able to drive their all-wheel drive Dodge Charger to the stranded vehicle. Yellowstone National Park maintenance sent out a loader and plow truck to clear a path for the wreckers from Cody. At 6:43 p.m., the tractor trailer, which was ironically carrying snowmobiles, was freed and en route to Cody.  

SAR commander Lance Mathess said that fact brought chuckles from the reponding SAR volunteers on their snow machines.

When asked why the driver was heading east on US 212, he said his GPS gave him that route, which the trooper confirmed, Pence wrote. Even though a regulatory sign near the junction shows the road closed in 17 miles and a cautionary sign recommends only vehicles less than 40 feet in length, the driver continued.  

The driver was unprepared for the mountain conditions and was unfamiliar with the route, Pence said. The truck also did not have tire chains or the removable front tow hook.

“Motorists need to be prepared for changing road conditions and need to look beyond their GPS for route information,” Pence said. “Thankfully this driver was able to utilize his company’s messaging system to get help. However, with a little trip pre-planning and observing the roadway signs, he wouldn’t have gotten into that predicament. 511 and WYDOT’s travel information website (wyoroad.info) both showed US 212 eastbound as closed at the time.

“It happens too often on US 212, especially in the spring and fall, that drivers take that route because of their GPS instructions.”

With multiple motorists becoming stranded each year in deep snow, the WHP has requested the NPS install a gate or that barrels be placed at the US 212 E/WYO 296 junction, for the safety of motorists. 

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