B y Krystle S. Morey
Josh Bessette is home safe with his family after a scary weekend ride that led to his being stranded in the frigid woods of Maine overnight.
Bessette, 24, of Comstock and graduate of Granville High School, was riding with a group of friends in Pittsburg, New Hampshire, when he was separated from the group. He was last seen around noon on Saturday, riding a lime green Ski-doo Freeride 146 snowmobile.
Authorities said Bessette was riding his sled off the trail on Rump Mountain when he got stuck and was unable to return back to the trail. Because the mountain straddles the New Hampshire-Maine border, New Hampshire Fish and Game conservation officers and the Maine Warden Service were called in.
Search efforts were complicated because Bessette was lost in an area referred to as “phone booth,” an area about 10-miles long where there’s no phone reception.
Word of Bessette’s disappearance spread across social media like wildfire with thousands of people sharing the posts about the missing man and posting prayers for him and his family.
Bessette’s family members, friends, law enforcement officials and other snowmobilers in the area combed through the woods on sleds and snowshoes Saturday night into Sunday morning, searching for him.
Nearly 24 hours after he was separated from the pack, Bessette was found by snowmobiler Stanley Dudka, of Bedford, New Hampshire, who was riding in the area with another group. Bessette was found at about 9 a.m. Sunday in North Oxford, Maine, which is about 30 miles from the New Hampshire trail head where he and his buddies started their ride, close to the Canadian border.
According to reports, Dudka, who spotted Bessette’s sled sticking up out of the snow, said the man’s lips were blue and he was shivering, but he was uninjured.
“We didn’t do it to be heroes, we all did it so that someone didn’t have to lose a family member,” Dudka wrote in a post on Facebook Sunday.
Temperatures dipped into the low single digits Saturday night. Bessette took off the plastic side panels of the sled and used them to block the wind while he ran the engine of the sled to stay warm through the night. He also had extra clothes and hand warmers, which he used to spread heat.
“It’s such a relief,” said his sister Melinda Bessette. “It was a very scary 24 hours.”
“Thanks to everyone who shared and worried with us,” she added.
Melinda Bessette was one of many of Josh Bessette’s family members who traveled to New Hampshire in search of him. While search parties combed the woods, the group waited at Young’s General Store in Pittsburg.
“(They) sectioned off a warming hut for us, fed us for free and gave us coffee,” Melinda Bessette said of the kindness of the employees at Young’s General Store. “They were just as excited to have Josh as we were.”
Shortly after returning home, Bessette posted this statement to his Facebook page: “I can’t thank everyone enough. This just shows no matter what skill level you have all it takes is one wrong turn … and then, no turning back! I made one wrong judgment call and from there on out I had two choices up the mountain in five feet of snow or down and try to hop back on the trail. Either plan did not seem too achievable!
“I can’t thank all the guys that never quit looking or devoted their day to helping out a complete stranger,” Bessette wrote. “After that feeling I wouldn’t think twice about going to help find someone in a similar situation.”
Bessette, a 2010 graduate of Granville High School, and his buddies headed out to the trails last weekend as part of the Tri-State Snowmobile Weekend, which allows snowmobiles legally registered in Vermont, New Hampshire or Maine to operate in the other states.
See a video of Josh Bessette emerging from the woods after a night in the cold, New England wilderness: Facebook.com/GranvilleNYSentinel