Daring Rescue Saves Four Hikers From Malibu Creek During Saturday's Storm

Monday, 3 Mar 2014, 9:33:00 AM

Brenton Garen

Hikers were rescued from rising waters of Malibu Creek during Saturday's storm.
Courtesy Photo
Hikers were rescued from rising waters of Malibu Creek during Saturday's storm.

Almost three dozen rescue workers and a daring helicopter maneuver

was needed to rescue four hikers from rising waters of Malibu Creek

during Saturday's storm.

At about 6:30 pm Saturday, a hiker called the Malibu/Lost Hills

Sheriff's Station via cell phone to say he was one of four hikers

trapped in the "Rock Pool" area of Malibu Creek State Park and that the

water was rising.

Knowing that the ongoing storms had caused the waters of Malibu Creek

State Park to change to a raging river, more than 30 Los Angeles County

Sheriff's Malibu Search and Rescue (SAR) Team members, LA County Fire

Department Urban Search and Rescue team members, and LA County Fire

Department Lifeguards Swift Water Rescue Team members and firefighters

responded with Lost Hills Sheriff's Station deputies to attempt the

rescue.

The storm had caused weather conditions that were terrible for hiking and the rescue effort was considered to be high risk.

Rescuers had to use four wheel drive vehicles to access the remote

area, then climb rocks and hike the rest of the way across slippery

rocks and trails that crumbled under their feet due to days of heavy

rains.

Rescuers reported about 8 pm that the water was rising with each

intermittent rainfall, and the hikers were trapped by the raging waters

with no way out. There was serious concern the hikers could be overcome

and drown before rescuers could reach them.

Due to cloud cover and nightfall, the remote wildness area was

completely dark and the only lighting available to rescuers was what

they carried, including small lights on their helmets and flashlights.

The Sheriff's Department said the fact that one hiker was able to get

cell reception was extraordinary considering the lack of cell towers in

the state parks area.

The hiker's cell phone battery was draining quickly and was quickly

reduced to 20 percent power even though rescuers were only texting with

the hiker to save the hiker's cell battery power.

Throughout the night, in order to get to near the hikers, rescuers

drove, then hiked, climbed and ultimately used an inflatable raft to get

close to the hikers.

While rescuers were able to see one victim's flashlight, they were

unable to see the hikers, even as the night wore on into after 2 am

Sunday.

Meanwhile, multiple rescue helicopters attempted to get to the hikers

in an effort to at least help find them and light the area so ground

rescuers could get to them and save them.

Three different flight crews were not able to get through to the site

due to lack of visibility and the high risk of flying into the cliffs.

The Malibu SAR, firefighter and lifeguard ground rescuers continued

to inch closer to the hikers, but were slowed by the risk of falling off

of cliffsides or into the raging waters in the dark.

The hikers had a flashlight that ran out of battery in the first few

hours of the rescue, leaving the rescuers blinded as to their exact

location and the hikers unable to signal them.

Rescuers blew whistles in an effort to help the hikers guide them in,

but the raging water made it impossible to hear even each other.

The night wore on until well past midnight. The temperatures had dropped into the mid-40's and kept dropping.

Even wearing special clothing, the rescuers were soaked and were

feeling the effects of the onset of hypothermia. Meanhwhile, the hikers

texted they were very cold. Hypothermia was a threat to everyone, as was

the dangerous terrain and raging waters.

Rescuers continued to try to reach the hikers but had run out of

options of ways to potentially get to them, as their path was blocked by

raging water, cliffs and long drops down the canyon. The quickly rising

water had covered paths that had existed earlier that day, allowing the

hikers to get stranded.

By 2:30 am Sunday morning, a Ventura County Sheriff's helicopter

rescue crew reported they were on the way to attempt to get through the

weather and reach the hikers. They were the fourth air crew to consider

responding that night. They made a daring effort and flew between cliffs

with low visibility and high danger.

The ground rescuers guided the helicopter crew to where the hikers

were likely trapped. Hovering between cliffs less than 200 feet apart,

the Ventura Sheriff's flight crew used their spotlight and spotted the

four hikers within minutes, just a few hundred yards from the ground

rescuers.

The hikers were sitting on a boulder, surrounded by raging waters

that nearly touched the huddled and frightened hikers in the dark.

A Ventura Sheriff's rescuer was lowered down to the boulder using a

hoist, and one by one, the hikers were brought into the safety of the

rescue helicopter.

The hikers were flown to the nearby landing zone, treated for the

onset of hypothermia and able to return home. The hikers are three men

and one woman, 25-26 years old, all from Long Beach.

The four hikers were cited by California State Park Rangers for

Unsafe Recreational Activities, 4319 California Code of Regulations,

Title 14.

LA County Sheriff John Scott said on the ground and in the air, the

bravery and actions shown in this search and rescue was beyond the call

of duty.

"This is one more example of the tremendous life saving capabilities

of Los Angeles County Sheriff's Search & Rescue personnel, our

partners with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, and in this case

the Ventura County Sheriff's Air Support," Scott said.

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