Jan. 21, 2013: Lost Hiker - Los Padres National Forest, San Luis Obispo County

M. Alabanza communicates with operations while B. Bacheller sets up the area for a hoist operation for the subject (in camouflage). Photo by Jerry Fernholz

01/21/13, Monday 04:30 – 21:00 Hours

On Saturday, 1/19/13, a 44-year-old male went for a solo day hike out of the Ragged Point Inn along the Pacific Coast Highway in northern San Luis Obispo County. He hiked into the Silver Peak Wilderness area of the Los Padres National Forest. When the subject did not return home on Sunday, his wife notified authorities. The San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Department initiated a search and requested mutual aid to get additional personnel.

The East Valley Team was activated for the search on Monday, 1/21/13, at 0430 hours. Six members of the team along with their liaison responded and drove 4 hours from the station to the command post. Also responding to assist were ground searchers and canines from Santa Barbara, Monterey, and Kern Counties. A helicopter from California Highway Patrol scanned the area from the air.

The East Valley Team was assigned an area where the subject had previously expressed interest in checking out. Friends of the missing subject who had previously hiked with the subject and knew the area were attached to assist the team. The team drove a long, rough dirt road along to their assigned areas. While en route, one of the team members noticed smoke in a canyon to the south. Team members yelled and used the truck’s PA system to try to make contact with the subject. The team received a verbal response and was able confirm that person who created the smoke was the missing subject and determined that the subject not injured.

A three member hasty team was established to access the subject. The path to the subject was covered with dense vegetation. The hasty team had to crawl through the vegetation for most of the uphill path. The two-tenths of mile they had to travel from the road to the subject took 40 minutes.

Once the hasty team accessed the subject, they evaluated him and concluded that he was uninjured. The subject was exhausted and was out of food. It was recommended to the command post that the subject should be hoisted out rather than trying to egress through the thick vegetation.

A CHP helicopter was dispatched and located the hasty team and subject. A Screamer Suit harness was lowered down the hoist. The hasty team put the harness on the subject who was then hoisted up to the helicopter. The helicopter flew the subject back to the command post where he was reunited with his family. Watch the reunion here

The hasty team crawled back down the hill to the road where they were picked up. The East Valley Team returned back to the command post where they were debrief, grabbed a bite to eat and drove the 4 hours back to the station.

View photos from the search.