VENTURA, CA (Saturday, March 2, 2014 at 12:40 p.m.)—Ventura County Sheriff’s Department reported this rescue along “Sespe River.” The more common name is Sespe Creek, although it has been referred to as a river from time to time.
The [Ventura County] Sheriff’s Aviation Unit conducted a rescue of 15 hikers near the Sespe River after receiving distress calls/signals from the Sespe River/Tar Creek Falls area. The hikers were airlifted to safety after the river became impassable to cross. None of the hikers were injured.
On Friday, February 28 at about 12:40 p.m., a Ventura County Sheriff’s Office helicopter was dispatched for a group of 12 hikers stranded by high waters in the Los Padres National Forest. The group was on the fourth day of a five-day backpacking trip near the Sespe River and Tar Creek Falls. The group attempted to return to their vehicles when they encountered dangerously fast moving water at the swollen Tar Creek. One of the hikers called 9-1-1 and a Sheriff’s helicopter was immediately dispatched to the area, but was unable to continue the search due to unsafe visibility in the canyon.
At about 5 p.m., a second request for a rescue helicopter was received for the same area. A separate group of three hikers activated their personal emergency satellite beacon and based on the satellite coordinates, this group was about one mile apart from the previously stranded twelve hikers.
The Sheriff’s helicopter again responded where the original 12 hikers were located on the east bank of the Sespe River, near Tar Creek. The group appeared to be in a safe location. The Sheriff’s helicopter continued north along the river where the second group of three hikers was located on the west bank of the Sespe River, near the west fork. The three men were in an unsafe location on a rock shelf above the rising river. Hoist operations were conducted to contact and lift the three men from the area. Each person was evaluated for injuries and they were flown to a safe location where County Fire Department and Sheriff’s personnel awaited them.
The Sheriff’s helicopter returned to the Sespe River in an attempt to make contact with the original 12 hikers. After locating them, a rescuer was hoisted from the helicopter to contact the group. None of the 12 was injured and they requested to remain for the evening. Based on their current location and condition, the determination was made that the group was in a safe location and the Sheriff’s helicopter returned to its home base in Camarillo.
Due to the water flow across Tar Creek, it was decided that the Sheriff’s helicopter would return the following day to recover all 12 hikers from the location. On Saturday morning, the 12 hikers were hoisted from the area by the Sheriff’s helicopter and flown to Fillmore. No medical attention was required for any of the hikers.
Both groups were prepared with the appropriate level of food, water, and personal survival gear. A cell phone and an emergency satellite beacon were key communication devices that were helpful in locating the backpackers. The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office Aviation Unit reminds all individuals who enter the backcountry that weather conditions, including waterways, can change rapidly.
This is part of the February 28, 2014 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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