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Texts lead search teams to missing father and son snowmobilers

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A series of text messages led search and rescue teams to a father and son from Albertville who vanished in a blizzard during a snowmobile trip in Michigan.

KSTP reports Benjamin Jenney Sr., 40, and his 19-year-old son, Benjamin Jenney Jr., are hospitalized in good health, despite hypothermic and dehydration conditions. They survived 28 hours in temperatures that dipped near minus 20 degrees.

According to Michigan State Police, the two went missing near Silver City, in the Porcupine Mountain State Park on the Michigan peninsula of Lake Superior Sunday night. They had been last seen leaving a restaurant and heading out on the snowmobile trails Sunday morning. The Upper Michigan Source reports the pair was on the trail all day, then on a river. While on the river, their snowmobiles iced up and stopped at 5:30 p.m., just as the sun was going down.

They were stranded in the back country, deep in the woods.

Authorities say at that point they tried to walk out. The snow at times was 4-5 feet deep. They had no survival gear with them. Volunteers on snowmobiles and snowshoes searched for the missing men until 1 a.m. At that point the search was temporarily called off due to weather conditions and darkness, police said.

The father and son did have a cell phone, but could not get service. They instead sent a text message reporting they were stuck in the woods. The last text said they were on foot attempting to get out of the woods, police said.

MLive/Grand Rapids News reported the Michigan Civil Air Patrol was able to use data from that last text message to narrow their location down to a 4 square mile area. A Civil Air Patrol cellular forensics team acquired the data from the network provider. Crews then received information that was texted to a relative Sunday night, stating the men planned to walk north along a creek. That’s where the search and rescue crews headed Monday morning. State police located the men Monday afternoon after searching for six hours.

The men were taken by ambulance to a local hospital, where they are recovering.

"It’s a really excellent outcome considering the very low temperatures and the amount of time they were out there in the cold," Lt. Col. Stephen Cassani said. "The fact that they had their cell phone on them may very well have saved their lives."

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