HELENA USA— Dr. John Torgerson died in an avalanche in February of 2018.Cadaver dogs brought in from out-of-state found his body buried in the snow.Mary Lehman, a search and rescue dog trainer and handler, read a report on hisdeath to a panel of lawmakers Wednesday.
“A body was recovered on May 15, 2018 after nearly three months,” Lehman said.“After the individual went missing while skiing in the big mountainbackcountry, drawing a close to a period of agonizing uncertainty for familyand friends.”
Lehman has trained search and rescue dogs in Arizona, Utah, Texas and Montana,and has worked as a Search and rescue officer for more than 20 years.
House Bill 641 sponsored by Rep. Steve Gist, R-Cascade, aims to give Montanasearch and rescue teams better access to cadaver dogs by allowing handlers totrain with real human remains.
Gist said he had to carry the bill because he was close with Dr. Torgerson.
“[He] was not only a co-worker. He was a mentor — a man I’d worked with for 10winters,” Gist said while holding back tears. “The reason I had Ms. Lehmanread that is because I didn’t think I could read it.”
Scott Secor is the Gallatin County Search and Rescue Commander. He saidtraining dogs to smell something without the genuine article is impossible.Search and rescue cadaver dogs need to be able to differentiate between humanbones and animal carcasses.
“Just as drug detection dogs use drugs…to locate drugs, search and rescueteams need human remains to find human remains,” Secor said.
Colette Daigle-Berg is a search and rescue dog handler. She said although theidea of a dog being able to differentiate between animal and human remains mayseem far fetched, dogs are capable of far more impressive feats. She told astory about a dog finding a missing man in rugged forest terrain fromscattered articles of clothing.
“It would have been unsafe for those 100 ground searchers to be up searchingthat kind of terrain,” Daigle-Berg said.
The remains would come either from people donating their bodies or medicalwaste.
There were six people who came to the panel in support of Gist’s bill, andthere were no opponents.
Source: J ames Bradley is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, apartnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the MontanaBroadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the GreaterMontana Foundation.
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