The search may be over for Chris Rice and Dan Carbonaro, two Santa Barbara men missing since Sunday in the desert area near the border of San Bernardino and Kern counties.
Two unidentified bodies were found at Government Peak in the Mojave Desert about noon Thursday, according to Kern County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Ray Pruitt. He said they were more than a mile from Randsburg, where Rice, 29, and Carbonaro, 27, left the Cottage Inn Motel on an all-terrain vehicle about 2:30 a.m. Sunday.
Pruitt said the bodies are being transported to the Kern County Coroner’s Office, and identifications will be confirmed within the next few days.
Terry Baxter, a friend of the men, said in an email to Noozhawk on Thursday night that Rice and Carbonaro had apparently driven off a cliff, falling about 500 feet. She said it is believed that they died on impact.
Rice and Carbonaro, both outdoor enthusiasts, were headed to Cuddeback Lake in San Bernardino County, according to Pruitt.
“Thank you all. My brother was full of life and love. Let’s celebrate that in his memory. Dan Carbonaro, how I will miss you, I love you,” Sharifa Jones posted on the Facebook group “Friends of the Chris Rice and Dan Carbonaro Search” that already has more than 900 members. Creation of a memorial page is under way.
The men had planned on a 45-minute trip and didn’t bring food, water, extra clothing or their cell phones. The area is known for rough terrain and numerous open mine shafts in the area — about 15,000 in San Bernardino and Riverside counties alone.
“Dan was a model human, strong, kind, humble and one of the most solid souls I’ve had the pleasure to spin on this rock together with,” Jonathon Brown posted on the Facebook page. “You will be dearly missed my good friend, I will always remember your kind smile. You were in inspiration to me and all who were blessed by knowing you. R.I.P. Dan and Chris.”
Mojave resident Wayne Nosala, who volunteers for Off-Highway Motor Vehicles Recreation, said the area is a hub for that type of activity and gets extremely busy during the holidays.
“This incident is the worst recipe you could have happen,” Nosala said. “You don’t leave a town at 2 a.m. to go play, leave your cell phones in the truck and go by yourself. The biggest thing is you have to have a travel partner, a second Polaris.”
The Kern County Desert Search & Rescue Team, the Indian Wells Mine Rescue Team, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office, the China Lake Mountain Rescue Group and Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department were all part of this week’s ground and aerial search party that exceeded 200 people.
“It feels unreal we could pour so much into it, and have a sad ending,” Baxter posted on the Facebook page. “Yet who Dan and Chris are as people is exactly why we did it. While grieving know everyone did their very best and we have showed their family how amazing they were as people. It was not wasted!”
Friends said Friday that a celebration of life for Rice is tentatively set for Jan. 4 in Santa Barbara. No further details have been released.
The Dan Carbonaro and Chris Rice Search Fund has been opened at Santa Barbara Bank & Trust. The account number is 0102413861. Stop by any branch or mail to SBBT/Cottage Office, 220 Nogales St., Santa Barbara CA 93105. Put a note in the envelope marked C/O Jonathan J. Katz-Moses: Dan Carbonaro and Chris Rice Search Fund. Click here to make an online donation.
All donations will help Rice’s and Carbonaro’s families pay for hotels, supplies, funeral arrangements, etc. Call 805.448.8234 for more information.
“Chris was a light in our lives,” Amy Stanfield posted on the Facebook page.