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Local Search and Rescue holds 25th annual BBQ

Power County’s Search and Rescue team celebrated its 25th annual Salmon BBQ Saturday.

Bob Sonnen joined Power County Search and Rescue 35 years ago.

“They had one, but it really hadn’t taken off yet,” Sonnen said.

But what inspired him to be part of this volunteer organization?

“Many years ago my brother drowned in an accident,” said Sonnen. “I always felt good about the people that helped him. A few years later I had the chance to join, so I joined and have been doing it ever since.”

He says when he started – everyone used their own trucks and boats.

“It’s grown quite a bit,” he said. “I’ve watched it since the beginning. We’ve done good over the years, and we’re thankful for everyone that supports it.”

According to Ron Stilwell, Sonnen’s commander in the Power County Search and Rescue, Sonnen is the first to pull a prank and the first to try and blame someone else. While they have fun at events like this, Stilwell said he and his Search and Rescue teammates take their job seriously, and that’s why they want to make sure they have the best equipment.

“We’ve gotten newer boats, four wheelers and all sorts of equipment that we needed to get,” said Stilwell, commander for five years and member for 14. “We have an air system now for all of our divers. We can fill up their bottles on-site when we have a drowning.”

Pocatello’s POW/MIA group even roared in for the occasion. POW/MIA advocates for any prisoners of war and soldiers still missing in action.

Today they showed up with a different reason, and presented them with a check for $600.

One family spoke at the event about the drowning of friends and family almost three years ago.

Darrel Shappart, 57, Jared Hale, 26 and his brother, Aaron, 30, and Stephen Verbeck, 30 all drowned on Aug. 9, 2010. They took the opportunity to thank the Power County Search and Rescue group for supporting them in their time of need.

They also thanked the residents of American Falls who were so kind to them at the time, and reminded everyone to wear a life jacket, no matter how good of a swimmer you are.

Stilwell said a large number of their rescues take place on the water of the reservoir.

They say the money raised Saturday will go toward another Polaris Razer, an ATV that will help them with desert rescues of anyone that is stranded or lost.

The main course for the event: the 1,600 pounds of fresh Alaskan salmon caught a few days ago and shipped here specially for the event.

And as for Sonnen? He says at 65 years old, he’s nearing the end of his Search and Rescue career.

“I’m getting kind of toward the end,” Sonnen said. “I’m thinking I ought to give it up one of these days, but I enjoy it. I enjoy the people. We’re all one big happy group.”

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