A Ventura man was found dead along Montecito’s Cold Spring Trail on Monday, and his female hiking partner was rescued from the Tangerine Falls area later in the day after being seriously injured, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department.
Two sets of hikers found the couple several hours apart, Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said.
The hiker whose body was found Monday morning has been identified as Brenden Michael Vega, 22, of Ventura.
Hoover said Vega had gone hiking with his friend, Saylor Guilliams, 22, of Ventura, around 4 p.m. Sunday. (Guilliams also was known as Saylor Lipkins.)
“The hikers had gone on a late afternoon hike and were unprepared for the conditions,” Hoover said in a statement Tuesday. “The lights from their cell phones were not enough to illuminate their path, and the hikers fell and injured themselves several times.”
Vega seriously injured his arm, and Guilliams suffered two broken ankles and a broken wrist, Hoover said.
Hoover said Vega yelled for help for several hours and then left Guilliams alone to go for help. Even though they had at least one cell phone, there is no cell reception in the remote, rugged area below Tangerine Falls, in Los Padres National Forest about 2½ miles north of the trailhead on East Mountain Drive.
According to authorities, the hikers who found the victims Monday had to leave the area to find a signal.
When Vega traveled down the trail to get help, Hoover said, he was fatally injured when he fell again — 20 to 30 feet down a rocky ledge.
A couple hiking on the lower Cold Spring Trail on Monday morning called 9-1-1 to report seeing a body 10 to 15 feet off the trail. On Tuesday, Hoover said his body was at the bottom of an embankment in a heavily wooded and rocky area.
Sheriff’s deputies and the Search & Rescue Team responded to the area and recovered Vega’s body, she said.
The call of an injured hiker — Guilliams — came in at 4 p.m. just as Search & Rescue Team members were finished extricating and transporting Vega’s body out of the area, Hoover said.
Another group of hikers found Guilliams unresponsive in a concealed area off the trail, near the base of the 100-foot Tangerine Falls about 100 yards above where Vega was found, according to authorities.
Search & Rescue crews; firefighters from the Montecito, Santa Barbara city and Santa Barbara County fire departments; and U.S. Forest Service personnel all responded to the scene and arranged to transport the woman to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital via a county helicopter. She is still recovering from her injuries, authorities say.
Hoover said Vega’s cause of death is under investigation and is pending toxicology results, which she said is standard procedure.
A family friend told Noozhawk that Guilliams went hiking with a friend Sunday afternoon but no one heard from her after 6 p.m.
“She was missing for 22 hours, it was all over Facebook forums and such looking for her,” longtime family friend Felicia Batrez said. “We have reason to believe she was injured out there all night.”
Guilliams’ family released a short statement to Noozhawk on Monday night: “At this time we would just like to thank Santa Barbara Search & Rescue and the Sheriff’s Department for their good work and all their help. Also, thank you to the good Samaritans who called it in.”
When Vega’s identify was released, they added a statement for his family.
“The family of Saylor would also like to add their condolences to his mother and loved ones at this time,” Batrez said. “He died trying to save Saylor’s life — a true hero.”