Dec. 18, 2012: Lost Hiker - Santa Cruz Island

C. Buttitta taking notes while searching on Santa Cruz Island. Photo by Antonio M. Arizo

12/18/12, Tuesday 02:30 – 15:00 Hours

A solo camper did not return from a weekend camping trip on Santa Cruz Island. The 23-year-old male from Ohio left for Santa Cruz Island on Saturday, 12/15/12 and set up camp in Scorpion Canyon. When the subject did not return on the boat back to Ventura Harbor on Monday, 12/17/12, the Channel Island National Park rangers investigated and found the subject's car still at the dock and his campsite on the island still intact. A Ventura County Sheriff's helicopter was dispatched Monday evening to search the area but had to turn back due to adverse weather. Santa Cruz Island is in Santa Barbara County who activated their SAR team. Because of the remoteness of the island and limited transport options, Santa Barbara requested the Ventura SAR teams to assist. Responding SAR team members were required to give a two day commitment to the search operation. Santa Cruz is the largest of the Channel Islands and is about 23 miles from the Ventura Harbor.

The East Valley team was activated at 2230 hours Monday evening and nine members met at the East Valley Station at 0230 hours. Responding SAR members from the East Valley, Santa Barbara, Fillmore, and Upper Ojai team met in Ventura Harbor at 0400 hours for the ride out on an Island Packers boat. After the two hour boat ride, the SAR members arrived on the Island and prepared to start searching at first light. The field teams searched the many deep canyons and along the steep cliffs overlooking the coastline. Searchers were placed on a boat to help search the shoreline.

Around mid-morning the searchers on board the boat spotted the subject along the shore and confirmed that the subject was deceased. The subject was found at the bottom of a cliff and appeared that he suffered a fatal fall. The subject's body was recovered and returned back to the mainland. The field teams returned back to the dock for a 2-hour boat ride back in very rough seas with swells up to 9-feet.

Jim Frank (left) of Santa Barbara SAR debriefing the search team members. Photo by: Antonio M. Arizo

Search teams loading gear onto the Island Packer boat. Photo by: Michael Weber

View more photos from the search.