Hikers Missing in Southern California Mountains Found Safe

April 11, 2019 Updated: April 11, 2019

MOUNT BALDY VILLAGE, California—Two hikers who vanished in snowy Southern California mountains were found safe on Wednesday, April 10, by rescuers who spent days searching the rugged heights.

Gabrielle Wallace, 31, of Rancho Cucamonga and Eric Desplinter, 33, of Chino Hills, went missing on Saturday, April 6, in the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles.

A search team found two sets of footprints in Cucamonga Canyon, south of Mount Baldy, and followed them. A helicopter sent to the area spotted two people near a campfire, according to a statement from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

The Search and Rescue operation continues for two missing hikers in the Mount Baldy area. If anyone has seen Eric or…

Posted by San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department on Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The hikers were to be flown to the Mount Baldy fire station to be reunited with their families and paramedics would determine whether they need further treatment, the statement said.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which helped with the search, described the pair as being “safely” located but there were no immediate details about their conditions.

“Miracles happen, and this is a miracle,” Mike Leum with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said in a tweet.

The hikers vanished while heading toward the 8,860-foot Cucamonga Peak near Mount Baldy. Desplinter was described as an experienced hiker and the two were carrying proper equipment for the icy conditions.

Search-and-rescue teams from six counties volunteered to help comb some 30 square miles of the mountains, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

The two had set out with a group of four people but the other two turned back out of concern about the danger of the trail, KABC-TV reported.

Brenda Wallace, Gabrielle’s mother, told KCBS-TV that Desplinter was her daughter’s boss and that her daughter had recently bought hiking gear for the trip.

“I know he wouldn’t leave her and she wouldn’t leave him,” she said.

Missing Persons

Over 600,000 people go missing in the United States every year, according to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.

Many of the missing adults and children are found safe but others are never found or are found dead.

“It is estimated that 4,400 unidentified bodies are recovered each year, with approximately 1,000 of those bodies remaining unidentified after one year,” the center stated.

The first 72 hours in a missing persons case is the most critical, according to criminology experts. That’s partly because investigators have the best chance of following up on leads before people’s memories start to fade, Dr. Bryanna Fox, former FBI agent and criminology professor at the University of South Florida, told ABC News.

“The information that law enforcement gets tends to be a little more accurate, and they are able to act on the information and hopefully get that person who is missing quicker,” Fox said. Later, there are fewer “bread crumbs,” or leads, to follow.

Dr. Michelle Jeanis, criminology professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said that time is of the essence because the missing person could be in danger.

After about a week, the person could very likely be dead, said former FBI Special Agent in Charge Steve Gomez. “There’s a certain point after about a week or two where you have to think, the potential that the missing person is dead and now it’s a matter of trying to find their body and bring closure to the family and to determine if you now have a homicide investigation, or suicide, or some kind of accidental death,” he said.

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