Death Valley Search

May 13, 2021
Saline Valley Hot Springs, Death Valley NP

Written by Vinay Rao.

On Tuesday, May11th, RMRU received an OES (Office of Emergency Services) callout to assist with a search in a remote and relatively inaccessible area of the northwestern section of Death Valley National Park. Four team members responded, including one of our newest members Shawn.

The search was for a 78-year-old male who had driven his truck alone to the Saline Valley – Warm Springs Campground during Easter where it broke down. According to the family on May 4th, approximately a month later, he took another truck into the area to attempt repairs with the understanding that he would return the next day. By May 8th not having heard from their loved one, the family notified authorities that he was missing. The Inyo County Sheriff’s Office began a search of the area on May 9th using ground, air, and dog team resources. The search was expanded to include more teams on May 11th.

RMRU drove to the area on Wednesday, May 12th, and arrived late in the evening and quickly settled into the campground near the Command Post (CP) since the search was set to begin early the next morning.

Shawn, Vinay, and Blake heading out.
Image by James.

The search began with a briefing at 5:30am on Thursday, May 13th, and assignments were quickly handed out. The objective was to saturate a roughly 4 miles by .5-mile rectangle by having the searchers move in a rough straight line approximately 120 feet from each other starting at one end of the rectangle. The area was chosen due to its proximity to where the subject’s vehicles were found. The terrain was relatively flat and with sparse vegetation, so visibility was particularly good.

Searcher in maind search grid.
Image by James.

RMRU completed its first set of line assignments in about 2.5 hours and returned to the CP for a brief rest and hydration. We felt confident that we could pick up another line assignment and were able to complete that as well. By around 12:30pm all teams had collaborated to complete all 5o of the line assignments within the grid search. Also, by then the heat had reached 105 degrees and was having an impact on the searchers.

Unfortunately, the grid search did not result in finding the missing subject or any clues, and the search teams were released to go home.

Other search/support teams included: Inyo County Search and Rescue, Sierra Madre Search and Rescue, Death Valley National Park, Inyo Sheriff, Mono Search and Rescue, canines through CARDA, Cal OES, San Bernardino Search and Rescue, Los Angeles Search and Rescue, Malibu Search and Rescue, Tulare Search and Rescue, and Fresno Search and Rescue. Aerial support was provided by China Lake Naval Weapons Base, U.S. Army, and CHP Inland Division Air Operations.

RMRU sends its wishes to the family in its hopes of finding their loved one.

RMRU Members Involved: (Blake Douglas, Shawn Dennstedt, James Eckhardt, and Vinay Rao)