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'It's been hard': Twenty-year-old Colstrip woman severely injured in snowmobile crash

'It's been hard': Twenty-year-old Colstrip woman severely injured in snowmobile crash
Posted at 6:25 PM, Feb 26, 2024

BILLINGS — LaKenzie Schindler, 20, grew up going on snowmobiling trips with her family, but on Feb. 2, she was in a snowmobiling crash, and her future is left with many unknowns.

But her rescue story out of the backcountry near Cooke City is one that her family will never forget.

'It's been hard': Twenty-year-old Colstrip woman severely injured in snowmobile crash

“My ski hit an old track, and it kind of, like, sucked me in, so I jumped off,” she said on Monday. “All I could hear behind me was my sled rolling, so I just kind of threw my head down into the snow and my sled smoked me in the back.”

 The Colstrip family traveled to Cooke City for their first snowmobiling trip of the winter and were riding up near Daisy Pass.

In a split second, LaKenzie was unable to move and was separated from her family.

“We’re hearing over the radio that there’s a medical emergency and was calling for Lakenzie’s group,” Lakenzie's father, Taylor Schindler, said.

He said just minutes before the group separated to head up a hill, they ran into a group learning how to snowmobile.

 “It’s not uncommon, but it's kind of rare to have another group kind of in that little area,” Taylor Schindler said.

What happened next is what her father describes as "the first miracle" because the group was filled with medical professionals.

“I really do believe that God sent them up to that little bowl where we were playing up there to help us out,” he said.

Cooke City Search and Rescue arrived at the scene and attempted to get a med flight up to the mountain, but due to changing weather conditions, it could not make it.

So, the crew took LaKenzie down the mountain and back to Cooke City for an ambulance.

“The ambulance crew kind of cruised up to Bill (who works with search and rescue) and the rescue crew, and they said, 'Hey we have to make this transfer fast, there’s a bunch of wolves right at the edge of town,'” he said.

A helicopter was able to meet them in Livingston and before midnight, LaKenzie made it to Billings Clinic, where she had surgery the next morning and stayed for 10 days.

“It's been hard. So I broke from T10 to L2,” she said.

She had two rods put in her back and multiple screws and is now recovering at the Craig Rehabilitation Center in Colorado, where she will remain for a few months. Doctors don’t know what the young woman's future will look like.

'It's been hard': Twenty-year-old Colstrip woman severely injured in snowmobile crash

“I think it’s just mentally and physically hard because life was so easy before and now it’s not,” she said.

Her parents and two brothers are all in Colorado with her to help with the recovery process.

Friends and family are doing all they can to help raise money for the Schindler family, with a GoFundMe set up and are taking Venmo's to LaKenzie's mother (@DenaSchindler). The Upper Yellowstone Snowmobile Club is holding a raffle next month and will donate the funds raised to the family.

The Schindler family wants to extend their gratitude to everyone who has helped LaKenzie so far.