Missing Hiker Sierra Madre

July 19-20, 2023
LA County Angeles National Forest

Written by: Richard Yocum.

RMRU along with several other counties were requested by the California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) to assist Los Angeles County with an ongoing search for a hiker missing for four days in the Angeles National Forest, near Sierra Madre, above the City of Monrovia. The missing person was an avid and frequent hiker in that area with a special interest in going off trail in search of trails and sites of historical interest to him. His intended route was not known. Search efforts began on 7/17/2023.

Searcher coming down the canyon
Over grown canyon

On 7/19/2023 Eric, James, Steve, and Matt responded, and their field team searched an area with extremely dense vegetation that was choked with poison oak. They descended the entire East Fork of the Santa Anita River with multiple rappels up to 100 feet and ended up hiking back out to Chantry Flats.

Searcher coming down the canyon
Eric repelling waterfall
Crossing the steam and cooling off

On the following day, 7/20/2023, Richard and Tobias responded and were assigned along with a member of Montrose SAR to one team, which was inserted by LA County Air Rescue 5 helicopter, searched a ridgeline down to the headwaters of the East Fork Santa Anita Canyon and then descended that canyon, which required one short but wet rappel, after which they were hoisted from the canyon by Air Rescue 5 after completing their assignment.

Rescur being lower into search area

On the same day, Vinay was paired with a member of the San Diego Mountain Rescue Team and their team was inserted by Air Rescue 5, covered their search area which, similar to the previous search areas, was covered in dense vegetation and poison oak. After reaching the East Fork Santa Anita Canyon they were then hoisted by Air Rescue 5 after completing their assignment. Hazards on this mission included very steep rocky unstable slopes, rappels, poison oak, Poodle Dog Bush, rattlesnakes, and extreme summer heat. The search area is known to be frequented by bears, as well as cougars.

RMRU members taking a cooling off break
Searching steep hillside

The search was highly active 24 hours a day for about 8 days and included the use of ground searchers from 20 SAR teams, helicopters, search dogs, mounted SAR, drones, and ATVs from agencies within LA County and throughout the State of California. The search area encompassed roughly 40 square miles and included many steep ridges, waterfalls, canyons with vertical drops, unstable fire-damaged slopes, and dense brush. On 7/27/2023 it was announced that the missing hiker had been found deceased. RMRU extends its condolences to his family and friends during their time of loss.

Beautiful flowers in remote area

RMRU Members Involved: (James Eckhardt, Matt Frenken, Eric Holden, Tobias Moyneur, Vinay Rao, Steve Rider, and Richard Yocum)

Other Agencies Involved:
• Antelope Valley Search and Rescue
• California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES)
• California Rescue Dogs Association (CARDA)
• California Search and Rescue
• China Lake Mountain Rescue Group
• Kern County Search and Rescue
• LASD Emergency Services Detail/Aero Bureau (Air 5)
• LASD Mounted Search and Rescue
• LASD Reserve Forces Detail
• Los Angeles County Fire Department – Air Operations
• Malibu Search and Rescue
• Marin County Search and Rescue
• Montrose Search and Rescue
• Orange County Mountain Rescue
• Rim of the World Search and Rescue
• Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit
• San Bernardino Cave Rescue Team
• San Bernardino Mountain Search and Rescue
• San Diego Mountain Rescue Team
• San Diego Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue
• San Dimas Mountain Rescue Team
• San Gorgonio Search and Rescue
• San Luis Obispo Search and Rescue
• Santa Barbara Search and Rescue
• Santa Clarita Valley Search and Rescue
• Upper Ojai Search and Rescue
• Ventura County Sheriff Aviation Unit
• Ventura East Valley Search and Rescue