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Search and Rescue Team Calls in Air Support to Rescue Bikers and Hikers Over Fourth of July Weekend

Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue members brief Ventura SAR teams before tracking a missing hiker in the Hurricane Deck area.
Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue members brief Ventura SAR teams before tracking a missing hiker in the Hurricane Deck area. (SBCSAR photo)

At approximately 3 p.m. July 3, 2016, Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team members were paged out for a dehydrated mountain biker on the Santa Cruz Trail located approximately 12 miles from Santa Barbara, north of Little Pine Mountain.

The 34-year-old male mountain biker from Santa Barbara was riding with a 43-year-old male biker on the popular Buckhorn Road/Little Pine Mountain/Santa Cruz Trail loop out of Upper Oso. After riding all morning, they took a wrong turn at the saddle near Alexander Peak and rode down to Santa Cruz Campground.

Upon realizing they were 180 degrees from where their route should have been, they started riding up the steep trail towards Upper Oso. Approximately two miles up, one of the bikers, who had run out of water, began feeling dizzy, nauseous and overheated.

The other biker continued up the trail to reach Upper Oso for help. Fortunately, the dehydrated biker was able to use his cell phone to call 9-1-1, despite the challenging cellular reception in the backcountry.

Before his cell phone power died, an initial, general location was obtained. Units from Santa Barbara County Fire and U.S. Forest Service started searching down the trail from Little Pine Mountain while SBSCAR personnel drove their 4x4 vehicles down the fire access road from Buckhorn Road to Santa Cruz Campground. 

Santa Barbara County Air Support Unit Copter 1 responded to assist in the search and located the dehydrated biker along the trail approximately 300 yards below the road SBCSAR was driving down.

With directional help from Copter 1, SBCSAR personnel cut a trail down through the brush to access the biker and initiated treatment for heat exhaustion until Santa Barbara County Fire paramedics arrived.

The biker was then moved down the trail to a closer point to the road where he was hiked up to vehicles for transport back to Upper Oso. He was reunited with his biking partner and released.

As SBCSAR personnel were returning from the Santa Cruz rescue, at approximately 7:50 p.m. July 3, they received a report of a lost hiker on Hurricane Deck which is a remote area in the San Rafael Wilderness north of Figueroa Mountain. 

The 36-year-old hiker, from Paso Robles, was hiking alone and called a friend from her location saying she was lost and needed help. 

Copter 308 lands with a rescued hiker and Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue team members. Click to view larger
Copter 308 lands with a rescued hiker and Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue team members. (SBCSAR photo)

Unfortunately, the cellular signal was lost before the friend could learn more. In order to determine a starting point to look for the hiker, SBCSAR sent two units to check various trailheads in the area to locate her vehicle. 

At approximately 10 p.m. Sunday night, July 3, a SBCSAR team found the missing hiker’s white Yukon SUV near the trailhead of the Lower Manzana Trail at Nira Campground.

Having located her possible footprint, a team of two SBCSAR personnel started down the trail tracking her prints. At the Potrero Campsite approximately 1.5 miles downriver of Nira, the team tracked her footprints heading up the Potrero Canyon Trail, which eventually connects with the Hurricane Deck Trail, approximately 2,000 feet higher.

The SBCSAR tracking team was joined by other SBCSAR teams during the night with assignments on other trails in the area, calling out the subject's name in hope of a response.

The primary tracking team continued to track the subject’s footprints down the Hurricane Deck Trail east towards the Manzana School House in very difficult terrain with the trail often disappearing. 

As morning broke July 4, 17 additional SAR personnel from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Unit arrived and prepared to join the search in the wilderness.

Upon reaching Manzana School House, the primary tracking team met up with another SBCSAR team that had hiked the trail down Manzana River to the School House.

As the teams were preparing a landing zone for a helicopter, at approximately 11 a.m., they heard a cry for help and found the missing hiker down a ravine that she had fallen into.

The hiker had a whistle that she blew, which helped teams locate her. Although scraped with cuts and bruises from her fall and suffering from mild dehydration, the missing hiker was found to be in good shape. 

Copter 308 from the Santa Barbara County Air Support Unit responded with paramedics and flew her to Cachuma Saddle, where she was released following a medical evaluation. Copter 308 also transported SBCSAR teams out of the area.

A couple of hours after returning from the Hurricane Deck search, at approximately 5:10 p.m. July 4, SBCSAR personnel were paged out for a search of a lost hiker on Grass Mountain, just north of Los Olivos. Sheriff’s dispatch was able to obtain coordinates from the lost hiker’s cell phone.

SBCSAR responded with two search teams and Copter 2 was deployed to aid in the search. Copter 2 was able to quickly locate the 55-year-old hiker from Santa Barbara and transport her to a safe landing zone where she was transferred to one of the waiting search teams who then returned her to her vehicle.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office wants to take this opportunity to thank the all-volunteer Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue Team, which is highly trained and on call 24/7, including nights, weekends and holidays.

There are currently 33 members on the team. If you are interested in finding out more about the team or reading a list of important safety tips for hiking and biking, visit www.sbcsar.org.

Kelly Hoover is the public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office.

 

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