Sheriff: Hikers rescued twice in one month

Pictured is the California Highway Patrol (CHP) Air Operations helicopter, landing in Siskiyou County to rescue two hikers. (Courtesy CNN)

Earlier this week, the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office assisted the California Highway Patrol with the rescue of two hikers who had been lost in northern California for five days.

Friday, Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey reports that this is not the first time those two hikers needed rescuing. In fact, this is the second rescue authorities have conducted this month.

The series of incidents started on Friday, April 5th, according to the SCSO, with an emergency call by Jay Woods, a resident of Fall River Mills. Woods reported that his friend, Katherine Bishop was at risk of injury after a car got stuck in a muddy area in the rural Pondosa area near the Siskiyou-Shasta County line. SCSO's Search and Rescue team responded to the incident, and ultimately rescued Bishop, her two children, and a friend with a Sno-Cat vehicle, according to the Sheriff's Office. The people rescued were unharmed and were later taken back to Fall River Mills.

Four days later, in the early hours of Tuesday, April 9th, SCSO dispatch received a 911 call from Bishop reporting that she and two friends were again stuck in the same area they were rescued from the previous week. According to authorities, Bishop "evidently got her vehicle out of the predicament from the earlier incident but got stuck in snow and mud on the way out of the area." In the second report, the trio was out of food and water and in need of assistance. This time, a CHP helicopter responded to assist. They found the stranded motorists and brought them to a waiting SCSO unit, who then transported them back to Fall River Mills.

On Saturday, April 13th, of that same week, the CHP dispatch center received an emergency call from Woods at about 12:41 a.m. reporting that he was stuck in the snow in the area of Whitehorse Reservoir, which sits near the Siskiyou-Modoc County line, not far from where the previous calls came from.

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Later that same day, the Shasta County Sheriff's Office notified the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office of a possible missing person from Burney, California - reporting that this person may be associated with the most recent SAR call-out. Authorities determined that Woods and Cole Rainwater, from Fall River Mills, asked for "help from a good Samaritan to get their vehicles unstuck in the Pondosa area." Due to the dangers associated with the remote, heavily wooded snow and ice-covered terrain where the imperiled persons were suspected to be located, a request was transmitted to the CHP to search the area by air. CHP H-16 responded but the crew did not find pedestrians in or about the stranded and previously immobilized vehicles.

On April 14, 2019, the CHP’s Northern Division’s Air Operation Unit was again requested to check the roads leading to the Whitehorse reservoir. At about 3:46 a.m. that same day, the daughter of the good Samaritan indicating her father was located in the area, but Rainwater and Woods ventured away from the immobilized vehicle into the nearby wooded area, and were last seen on Saturday, April 13 at about 1:30 p.m. A request was made for Shasta County Sheriff’s Office to check the roads leading to Whitehorse Reservoir.

On Monday, April 15th, the United States Forest Service Law Enforcement Officers joined in the search of the area. Neither Woods nor Rainwater was found, however, authorities did find shoe impressions in the snow.

The search continued into the next day, this time with the assistance of CHP's H-16 helicopter. This time, the flight crew was able to find the lost parties. They landed and transported them out of the area.

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“The outcome of this rescue was favorable and we are relieved no one was injured but the series of rescue missions were time-consuming and costly," said Deputy Mike Burns, SCSO SAR Coordinator. "The rescued persons were previously advised not to return to the hazardous areas until the weather and ground conditions were safer."

Burns went on to advise that all citizens should avoid unsafe areas, carry redundant communications devices, necessary medication, extra food and water, warm clothing, flashlights, and "other emergency supplies in the event a mishap occurs."

"Again, it is not a good idea this time of the year to venture off paved roadways and travel in areas containing deep snow, ice, mud, and water run-off if possible," said Burns. "SAR missions potentially endanger all ground and air participants and it is obvious in this instance that at least some of the participants ventured into areas that were unsafe, even after warnings from SCSO SAR.”

"The incidents and related searches are being reviewed to determine what action, if any, will be taken in this case involving the actions of the involved parties," said Lopey. "These series of incidents are still under investigation and anyone with information is urged to contact the SCSO’s 24-hour Dispatch Center at (530) 841-2900.”

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