SARstories News is our blog for all things Search & Rescue: interesting mission reports and articles, featured SAR teams and new items on the website, upcoming conferences, gear reviews, and anything else that piques our interest and we hope will pique yours.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

An Interesting SAR K9 Reaction -- A Bit of HR versus a Whole Body

I'm not a SAR dog handler, but I do frequently back one of our team's handlers and her four NASAR-certified Golden Retrievers, all cross-trained in area search and human remains (HR) detection. Recently, I accompanied this experienced K9 team on a two-part mission -- first the search of the subject's abandoned vehicle and then the area search for the missing man -- and witnessed what was, to me, a fascinating and unexpected phenomenon. That is, the difference in the dogs' reactions when detecting a tiny amount of HR compared to their reactions when they found the decomposing body.

During the search of the locked vehicle, each dog independently and enthusiastically alerted on the trunk. Two of the four even appeared frustrated, digging at the ground and repeatedly jumping up with their front legs and hitting at the car with their paws, as if they wanted to get at the source of the scent. One or more barked, and all jumped up on their handler.

Once law enforcement officers were given permission to have the vehicle unlocked and the trunk was opened, there was no body inside and no HR visible. Each dog was again brought back to the car, one by one, and each again alerted on the trunk, this time pointing with their noses and/or paws at a specific location inside when their handler said, "Show me."

When the vehicle was later towed to the Sheriff's Department and gone through by detectives, it was found that the dogs had indeed alerted on a spot of blood, about the size of nickel, on a pair of pants located below other items in the trunk.

On a different day, during the area search around where the vehicle had been parked, the body of the missing man was found by another K9 team. My team's handler and I and two of her four dogs were searching another location at the time, so we didn't witness the other dog's reaction, but our handler soon brought her dogs, one by one, to the remains to let them have a full body "find." The man had been deceased for some time -- up to three weeks -- but was intact, sitting on a blanket up against a tree. As we watched the first of the dogs move in toward the scent, I was expecting him to have an equal or greater reaction as he did to the spot of blood in the trunk.

But I was very wrong. The dog moved slowly, smelling around maybe ten feet from the body. Smelling ... smelling ... moving in a little closer. And closer. Looking up towards his handler now and then. Then he got even closer to the body, sniffing around near his hand. And then the dog raised his head, coming face-to-face with the deceased, and he jumped back, startled. He moved away and continued sniffing around the periphery. He peed on a bush. Slowly, the dog, the youngest of the four Goldens, made his way over to his handler, and gave a quiet alert, jumping up on her but without the enthusiasm he had at the vehicle. This was this dog's first full body.

I looked at the handler, confused.

"Think about what they train on," she said. "Small amounts of HR. It's very rare to have access to a whole body. So they're used to tiny bits, instead of such a huge scent pool."

That did make sense; although it took some time to sink in.

The first dog slowly moves in closer to the subject.

She retrieved the second dog, this one the oldest of her four. This dog had experienced one whole body before. But, oddly enough ... as I was still thinking ... he didn't go all the way in to the body, sniffing around the periphery like the first dog. Like the first dog, he urinated in the area. Though he showed no sign of wanting to leave the area, he didn't alert at all until prompted.

Again, the handler explained this to me, much like I later read in this excerpt:

From Buzzards and Butterflies -- Human Remains Detection Dogs (p. 58) : "Each dog is different. While some are adept at smaller quantities, when an entire body is present in a search scene, things change. Some dogs will continue to find and alert on larger quantities in the same manner they do with smaller quantities. However, many will react in totally different ways with a whole body or one that is in a more advanced stage of decomposition. Some will approach but not enter the zone of the hottest scent.  They will not narrow down the source to the same degree that they do with disarticulated or smaller scent sources. Some will not get within 100 feet of a severely decomposed body but will slap or touch the paw at a skeleton. Each handler needs to experience varying degrees of decomposition in order to fully understand how their dog will react. With over 400 compounds formed during the decomposition process ... handlers can hardly prepare for each and every stage of decomposition. They can, however, expose the dog to as many of these varying stages as possible."(See Buzzards and Butterflies: Human Remains Detection Dogs on Amazon)

Do you have experience with HR (or cadaver) dogs? And have you witnessed anything like I've described, or a different reaction when a K9 locates a body versus the usually tiny amounts of HR they train on? Please share your experiences or comments here. If you have a related question, I'll try to get a good answer for you from our handler, who's also a SAR K9 instructor. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Search & Rescue Reading and Writing

These are the latest SAR blogs and books to come my way. 

Seeking The Lost

Author Dale Matson is a volunteer for the Fresno County Mountaineering Unit of the Sheriff's Department, who recently published a book about nine of the searches he's been involved with over the last seven years:  Seeking The Lost: Stories of Search and Rescue. Father Dale is also an Anglican Priest, a retired licensed plumber and heavy equipment operator, and a psychologist. These SAR stories are told as seen through Dale Matson's eyes as he worked with fellow volunteers and law enforcement personnel. The book begins with an overview of the search process, then tells the stories of specific searches, from call outs to conclusions. The stories include gear selection, navigation, and even the humor that can emerge in serious and sometimes dangerous conditions. Not every story describes a successful outcome but every search is treated as a learning experience.

Mountain Rescue Association Blog

The MRA published their first blog post on June 30, 2011, with What is MRA's Position on Charging for Search and Rescue? and then followed up with posts about the ten essentials and hyperthermia and heat-related illnesses. The Mountain Rescue Association (MRA), the oldest SAR association in the U.S., was established in 1959 at Timberline Lodge at Mount Hood, Oregon, and now is comprised of more than 90 government authorized units. Read the MRA blog.

Mountain Rescue Blog

The purpose of Mountain Rescue Blog is to share mountain search and rescue techniques, tools, news and opinions with others who are in the field or are interested in mountain SAR. Author Ethan Zook, a rock climber, hiker, caver and river paddler, has been exploring the outdoors since he was a child. During college, Ethan wanted to put his interests and skills to good use, so he joined the local mountain search and rescue team. He's also a firefighter/EMT-B with Hose Company #4 in Harrisonburg, Virginia, a Wilderness EMT, and he holds certifications in lifeguarding and CPR. Rounding out his outdoor resume, Ethan is a professional climbing guide and instructor. As a volunteer with  the Rockingham-Augusta Search and Rescue Team (RASAR), he helps provide mountain SAR services to Rockingham and Augusta counties and the larger Commonwealth of Virginia.  Ethan and his wife, Melissa, are now also members of Old Rag Mountain Stewards, a volunteer group providing outdoor education and rescue services to hikers on Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park. Read Mountain Rescue Blog

Sunday, July 3, 2011

New Search and Rescue Reading and Ongoing Searches

I recently received emails from two Search and Rescue team members about each of their new books....

75 Search and Rescue Stories: An insider's view of survival, death, and volunteer heroes who tip the balance when things fall apart

Author Shaun Roundy, a Sergeant with the Utah County Sheriff Search and Rescue Mountain Rescue Team and the Mountain Rescue Association Intermountain Region Chair, has just published this book of the most memorable rescues of his past 12 years with the unit, including 150 photos. He tells these stories from two perspectives -- from that of the victim who gets in over his or her head and then from the professional volunteer rescuer who puts it all on the line for strangers, sometimes in the worst possible conditions.

DEATH CLOUDS On Mt Baldy: Tucson's Lost Tragedy

This is a true story about the more than 750 heroes who participated in what became the largest search and rescue operation in Arizona's history, which took place in November, 1958. Their mission: to rescue three young Boy Scouts lost in an unforecast southern Arizona monster blizzard in the Santa Rita mountains. Author Cathy Hufault is the sister of one of three other Boy Scouts who were with the victims until they'd turned back and were able to go for help.

Read Chapter 1

Search and Rescue in the News: 

Virginia Hiker Missing in West Virginia's Cranberry Wilderness : West Virginia State Police say 56-year-old Michael Camellitti, of Stanardsville, Va., entered the densely wooded Cranberry Wilderness on May 23rd for a four-day hike, but he did not return. He has been declared missing since June 12. Read the story

Search and Rescue Crews Suspend Ground Search for Missing Hornby Island Teen : Search and rescue crews have suspended the ground search for a 16-year-old Hornby Island resident who went missing after setting out in his new kayak on the afternoon of June 29th, but the Comox Valley RCMP say they will continue their search on the water. Read the story

Just Found:

Bodies of Missing Doctor and Daughter Found in the Wilderness : Dr. Michael von Gorler, 53, from Boulder, CO, and his 20-year-old daughter, Makana, a University of Colorado student, were last heard from on June 21st, when Makana sent a text message to her boyfriend, telling him she was going to hike 14,067-foot Missouri Mountain near Buena Vista. This was supposed to be a day-hike on June 23rd. Ground searchers were assisted by two National Guard helicopters, one of which was a Black Hawk that could carry as many as nine searchers into the area. Today, their bodies were found about a mile from the summit. Read the story

Friday, June 17, 2011

Do You Read the NPS Morning Report?

The news isn't strictly Search and Rescue, but since I've been reading the Morning Report from the National Park Service, a lot of it has been. Thank you to J. Gary Brown, owner of Real World Productions, for bringing this to my attention.

From this morning's report, June 17, 2011:

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks (CA)
Woman Rescued After Three Hours Caught In Park Stream

"On Tuesday, a 52-year-old woman headed out from the Farewell Gap trailhead on a solo day hike as part of her training for an ultra-marathon. She hiked up Farewell Canyon, crossing Franklin Creek on a snow bridge. On her return trip, the snow bridge collapsed underneath her and she fell into the creek. She was swept downstream under the snow for 30 to 40 feet before being able to stop herself. She stood up in the creek under the snow, but had no access to the surface. Using her hands, she dug through about five feet of snow and created a small hole, then threw her backpack out of the hole. It was seen there by other visitors, who went to examine the pack and found the woman under the snow nearby. By that time, she'd been trapped in the creek under snow for over three hours and was hypothermic and incoherent. One person pulled her out while another went back to the trailhead to summon help; the other members of the group helped warm her. Rangers and a park helicopter with a medic on board were dispatched to the scene. When the rangers arrived, the woman declined either evacuation or medical assistance. The rangers helped her return to the trailhead. [Submitted by Dana Dierkes, Public Affairs Officer]"

Read about more National Park SAR incidents, fire management, scheduled trainings, and parks and people news at
Have you read these books?

Lost Person Behavior: A search and rescue guide on where to look - for land, air and water, based on a landmark study, is the definitive guide to solving the puzzle of where a lost person might be found. It presents new and updated subject categories, behavioral profiles, current statistics, suggested initial tasks, and specialized investigative questions. Whether the subject is underground, underwater, under collapsed rubble, on land or has fallen from the sky, this book delivers what search managers need. This book is aimed at law enforcement and SAR personnel responsible for the initial response and subsequent search. Searchers in the field will also find this a fascinating and practical read.

The Mammoth Book of Mountain Disasters: True Stories of Rescue from the Brink of Death covers thirty-five first-hand accounts of incredible rescues at the top of the world in this volume spanning five continents. The book features an international cast of mountaineers, including Joe Simpson, Doug Scott, Pete Sinclair, Milos Vrbe, Paul Nunn, Ludwig Gramminger, Karen Glazely, Ken Phillips, Jamie Andrew, and Blaise Agresti. Compiled and edited by Hamish MacInnes, the Scottish mountaineering legend and pioneer in the field of mountain rescue, the collection includes work that has never before appeared in print — like the first draft of Joe Simpson's breathtaking tale of survival in the Peruvian Andes, "Touching the Void."

Specially commissioned for this volume are the accounts of a dramatic rescue executed by the Search and Rescue Team in Grand Canyon National Park; of the most remote mission ever undertaken by a helicopter rescue team, in the winter of 2000, on Mount Ararat; and of Jamie Andrew's extraordinary, international newsmaking 1999 rescue from the Alps. Rescue attempts are the real-life stuff of drama and suspense. They thrust the players into an elemental struggle for survival.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Mountain Locator Unit and Other Emergency Signaling Devices

A variety of emergency locating and messaging devices are available for backcountry travelers as means of signaling for help. These devices include Mountain Locator Units (MLUs), Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs), GPS locating devices (ie. the SPOT Satellite Messenger), and cell phones and Smart Phones. There is, however, no one perfect device. Each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, not to mention the fact that all electronic devices may fail and aren't a guarantee that rescuers will be able to reach a victim's location in time. These devices are no substitute for adequate preparation and at least one non-electronic backup plan should things go wrong.

The Mountain Locator Unit:

Oregon's Mount Hood is the only mountain in the world on which the MLU is currently used. The unit, which has a long range and long battery life, can be rented for about $5 at most Portland outdoor stores and from the Mount Hood Inn at Government Camp.

The Mountain Locator Unit was designed after a school group of two adults and seven children died on Mount Hood in 1986. The bodies of some of the group were found in a snow cave a day after searchers had passed within fifteen feet of their shelter without noticing them.

The MLU is easy to use but must be manually activated, and a call has to be placed to 911 in order for a rescue to be initiated, because no one is listening for the signal. There are only a few receivers in the state of Oregon, which are stored away. When someone calls 911, those who have the receivers will then activate them. But cell phone service is limited on Mt. Hood and varies widely among providers, not to mention that cell phone batteries don't last long in the cold. And an MLU won't be of any help if the victim is unconscious or unable to pull the cord and there is no one to activate it for them.

MLUs work with line of sight and provide a direction but not coordinates. MLUs do penetrate snow, however, so they will work in a snow cave, but the signal can bounce off of or be blocked by terrain.

Despite those limitations, the Mountain Locator Unit has saved lives on Mt. Hood. Here's a news video, including film taken by the rescuers when they were called out to search for missing climbers one February night during a blizzard with 60mph winds and white-out conditions.

The Personal Locator Beacon:

When activated, a Personal Locator Beacon sends a high-strength satellite signal, which gives law enforcement a broad location of the device. The PLB emits a homing signal, which rescuers follow with the use of a receiver to locate the victim. Newer models provide a complete set of GPS coordinates, and, unlike the MLU, simply activating a PLB initiates a rescue response without a call to 911. PLBs have a shorter battery life than MLUs, lasting 1 or 2 days at most once activated and must be sent back to the manufacturer for battery replacement. The units require an unobstructed view of the sky and registration with the appropriate national authority.

PLBs, such as the Revere McMurdo FastFindcan be purchased for retail prices of about $200 and up.

Here's an informative video about MLUs, PLBs and other signaling and GPS tracking devices, presented by the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office and Portland Mountain Rescue.

Related reading:

What is a PLB?

Mountain Locator Unit Can Help, But Doesn't Guarantee a Safe Return

The Use and Misuse of the SPOT Satellite Receiver

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Search & Rescue Blogs and Mission Episodes / Also: Update on the Search for Abisha

Here's a Search & Rescue website some of you may not have stumbled upon yet. It's called Call Out.

Call Out provides teams across British Columbia, Canada, with small camcorders and tiny helmet cams. Each participating team usually designates one or two of its members as camera operators. When there's a Search and Rescue mission, the camera person shoots as much footage as possible without compromising the rescue operation. Then, if it turns out to be what Call Out considers a good rescue story, their production team meets with the SAR team and the subjects to film interviews, and a short re-creation is often staged to fill in the gaps in the footage.

View Call Out episodes

On Call Out, you can also read blogs by "SAR Advocates," who "share their passion for Search and Rescue whether they are actively participating on a team or not, applying their knowledge and extensive experience to assist the SAR community in meeting the multi-faceted challenges involved in saving lives."
You can follow Call Out on Facebook and Twitter as well.

Update on the search for Abisha Ray Mounce:

Several months ago, I posted about this missing person case after being contacted by Abisha's mom, Ingmar, who was spreading the word about her son. Abisha had been missing since October, 2007. His vehicle had been found along the Continental Divide Trail, parked at North Crestone Trailhead just north of Crestone, Colorado. An extensive search, both by SAR teams and by a friend of Abisha's, had turned up no clues.

A few days ago, I received this comment from Ingmar on that former post:

"Remains, likely Abisha's, were found last Monday. Thank you all for your SAR service. It is an important thing for us family members of people who go missing"

She referenced the Valley Courier story: Missing Atlanta Man Presumed Dead in San Luis Valley

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Shortest Route Was a Tragic Route for a Canadian Couple

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/CC
In March, 2011, Rita and Albert Chretien were driving from Canada to Las Vegas with guidance from their new GPS.  But their trip came to a sudden, unexpected stop on the 19th in the wilderness of Nevada's Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, when their two-wheel drive van became stuck in the mud on washed-out forest service roads deep in the high country. According to the Associated Press, they'd consulted their GPS "to find the shortest route to Jackpot, nestled in Nevada's northeastern corner. If they had typed in the town's name into their GPS from anywhere in the area, the shortest route would have led them off-highway and along possibly a half-dozen different forest service roads only named with numbers. They apparently followed the route into the mountains without question."

Yes, we've heard similar stories before -- people blindly following the directions given by a piece of technology, without consulting a map or using common sense in the process, allowing themselves to be led into danger and, sometimes, even death. Remember the Nevada couple who got stranded for three days in the Oregon desert after they followed directions from their GPS device? Soon after that, an Oregon couple spent about 12 hours stranded in the Northwest's Cascade Mountains with their 11-month-old daughter. Lucky for them, those stories had happy endings. For the Chretiens, though, theirs appears to be a tragedy.

On Friday, May 6th, 56-year-old Rita Chretien was found barely alive -- yes, seven weeks after getting stuck --  by a group of hunters on ATVs who themselves had made a wrong turn on the confusing network of Forest Service roads. Her husband, however, is still missing, having set out on foot on March 22nd to walk more than 20 miles to find help, hoping to make it to Mountain City.

Two of the men who found Rita rode nearly ten miles on their ATVs to get cell service and called Elko County dispatchers. Listen to the 911 tape....

Rita Chretian survived by rationing trail mix and hard candy and drinking from a nearby creek. She lost as much as 30 pounds during that time and would not have survived much longer.

Sgt. Kevin McKinney of the Elko County Sheriff's Department, which is leading the continuing search for Albert Chretian said,  "Many of the roads are just washed out, covered from rock slides, and there are deep pockets of drifting snow." 

For more on this story and the continuing search, read:

Canadian Woman Found Alive, Husband Still Missing
Woman Who Was Stranded for Weeks Leaves Hospital
Teams Seek Man Whose Wife Survived Seven Weeks in Bush

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Another Search & Rescue Conference

The New Mexico Search and Rescue Council, a non-profit, all-volunteer organization that represents the largest group of wilderness search and rescue teams in the state, will be hosting the 2011 "Escape" in Ruido, NM, on May 13 - 15th at the Ruido Convention Center.

Courses offered at this year's conference will include:

Land Navigation
Air to Ground Visual Signals
Amateur Radio 
Introduction to Technical Rescue
Soft Tissue Injuries
Map and Compass
Heat and Electrolyte Emergencies
Choosing a Communication System
Patient Packing

... and much more.

To see the complete schedule and find out more about the conference, lodging and the keynote speaker, see

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Follow-up: Missing Hikers Found Safe in Zion National Park

According to a National Park news release, the two hikers that were listed as missing in Zion National park have been found.  Evgenia Buzulukova, 25 from Roy, Utah and Jonathon Wilson, 28 from Portland, Oregon, were located in the Left Fork of North Creek (The Subway) last night, April 19, at approximately 10 p.m. in safe and stable condition.

The news release goes on to say...

"They eventually reached a point in The Subway where the very high and cold water conditions were such that they did not think it was safe to continue.  They decided to wait at this spot for help from other hikers who may be in The Subway.

On Tuesday, April 19, they encountered another group of hikers who were able to assist the couple through the difficult area.  The couple then joined the group for the rest of the route through the canyon.  They were eventually located that same evening at approximately 10 p.m. by a rescue helicopter from the 66th Rescue Squadron from Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, NV.  Two squadron members were lowered down to the group and assisted them on the rest of the hike out.  They all arrived safely at the Left Fork of North Creek Trailhead at approximately 11 p.m.  Park rangers met the couple at the trailhead and determined that they did not require any medical attention.  After interviewing them, they were released. .... The successful conclusion to the search was in part because the hikers had obtained a backcountry hiking permit which included information useful to the searchers.  They also made a wise decision to wait for help in the canyon instead of attempting a difficult and dangerous obstacle that would have pushed the limits of their capabilities and equipment."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hikers Missing in Zion National Park

Zion National Park rangers, park employees and volunteers are currently conducting a search for two missing hikers, 25 year-old Evgenia Bruzulukova from Roy, Utah and Jonathon Wilson, 28, from
Portland, Oregon. The pair had a backcountry permit for a one-day trip through Russell Gulch and the Left Fork of North Creek (known as "The Subway") on Saturday, April 16. 

Bruzulukova and Wilson were last seen by park visitors on Saturday morning at the head of Russell Gulch. Rangers began searching for them on Sunday, after the couple’s vehicle was discovered at the Left Fork of North Creek Trailhead. The trip that they had undertaken involves several 100-foot rappels and swimming through the Left Fork of North Creek. Streams in the area are currently running very high and cold due to runoff from snowmelt.

The search effort also includes assistance from a helicopter, dog teams and multiple ground search teams.

Anyone with information concerning the missing hikers or who thinks they may have seen them are being asked contact Zion National Park Dispatch at 435-772-0178.  You can read one of many news articles about this search and see photos of the missing hikers at


Of course, this is just one of many ongoing Search & Rescue missions throughout the world. You can see a feed of SAR news headlines on the Backcountry Rescuer website.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Two New Firsthand Search & Rescue Stories

Now featured on 

Devil's Dues by Bruce Hansen....

An AirMed Skycare helicopter crashes into the ocean off the coast of Maine with a burn patient, nurse, paramedic and pilot aboard. Coast Guard rescue vessels had to turn back before reaching the search area, due to all hands being ill from rough seas. Then, members of the Cape Elizabeth Water Extrication Team (WET) were called out.

Author Bruce Hansen was one of the WET team members who fought exhaustion and hypothermia that night to rescue the surviving victim of the crash. He writes, "We were out there and insanely focused.  At 0130 hours, the Coast Guard Duty Commander radioed to our handheld, duct-taped to the helm. The WET Team had completed its assigned search pattern and was advised to stand down.  After all this? The Coast Guard classified the crash victims as missing and presumed dead. We did not think they had to be dead men."

Read the full story on Bruce Hansen's blog, A Voice Cries Out in the Wilderness

Rescue on Rosalie Peak by Maverick

Maverick (a.k.a Prakesh), Alyson, Kevin and a black lab named J.B. started up Colorado's Rosalie Peak on the morning of February 11, 2011, under blue skies. Just before they reached the summit five hours later, the forecasted snowstorm and high winds moved in. And, on the way down, Alyson fell, breaking her leg and pelvis and, as was later discovered, suffering from internal bleeding. 

Fortunately, there was cell phone service on the mountain, and a call for help was made. UNfortunately, the rescue helicopter that was initially dispatched and landed at the victim's location had to suddenly take off without her, due to the storm. Long, cold hours would pass before a ground unit from the Alpine Rescue Team could reach Alyson and her friends, and then would come the "descent from hell," as Maverick puts it.

He writes, "I stood and watched the chopper take off in abject dismay. I had had barely enough time to digest the fact that they were leaving her. I admit I was afraid to turn and look at Alyson’s face as the chopper took off… for two reasons: (1) I was plain chicken to witness her disappointment which I knew was far greater than mine and (2) I did not want her to see in my face that I lost hope for a quick second; it would have killed the overall mood I was hoping to create during this day… a positive mindset was the biggest weapon we had at this point since we could be in for a long wait." 

Read the full story on

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A SAR Volunteer Loses His Life During a Search

This morning, I found out that Arizona Mounted Search & Rescue volunteer, Lloyed Reese, 77, died during a mission this past Tuesday. Lloyd was a member of the Gila County Sheriff's Office Mounted Posse, which was formed in 1967.

Woolsey was leading his horse across an old dam in a remote location when he slipped and fell approximately 20 feet onto the rocks below. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Frank Woolsey was participating in the search for a 56-year-old man who left his home near Payson, Arizona, on an ATV sometime around 10 a.m. on April 1st. The following afternoon, a neighbor contacted the sheriff’s office, stating that he'd not heard from the man since, and he didn't appear to be prepared for an extended trip.

For more information on Lloyd Reese's death and the mission he was on, see: Volunteer Dies During Search and Rescue Tuesday

Friday, February 11, 2011

SAR News: Conferences, Tracking Classes, A Katie Kim Interview, and SAR Reading

Here are two more SAR conferences you might be interested in...

The IDHS Search and Rescue conference will be June 2 - 5, 2011, at the IDHS SAR Training Center at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. See the conference agenda here.
Little Egypt Search and Rescue will be holding its 4th Annual SAREX at Dixon Springs State Park in Southern Illinois, April 15 -17, 2011. Sign up on their website at

You can find other 2011 SAR Conferences in my earlier post here.

Universal Tracking Services has posted some 2011 tracking classes on their site at There are currently two in April (in Wamic, OR, and Duncan, B.C.), two in May (in Colorado Springs, CO, and Cache County, UT), and two in September (in Wamic, OR, and Daggit County, UT).

Tonight on ABC's 20/20, there will be a two-hour interview with Kati Kim, who will discuss her family's
disappearance in Oregon, when they were stranded for nine freezing cold days in 2006. Her husband, James Kim, attempted to go for help and succumbed to hypothermia. See: '20/20' Exclusive: Kati Kim on Her Family's Harrowing Ordeal

And here's a book that was recommended to me by another SAR volunteer. It's called Playing for Real: Stories from Rocky Mountain Rescue and is about the founding of the Rocky Mountain Rescue Team in the 1940s and subsequent rescues and recoveries from that time onward, mostly in the general vicinity of Boulder, CO.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Search for Abisha

On October 21, 2010, Abisha Ray Mounce, also known as Abe, left Atlanta, Georgia in his 2007 Black Jeep Wrangler (Georgia License Plate AWR 2270).  Abe told his wife he was going "to the woods" to hike and would return in a couple of weeks, which is not unusual for Abe.  He's an avid backpacker, having completed an Appalachian Trail thru-hike from Maine to Georgia in 2009, for which, according to his mother, Abe planned carefully. 
Abe's vehicle was first noticed along the Continental Divide Trail, parked at North Crestone Trailhead just north of Crestone, Colorado, on 10/26/10 (though the family did not know this at the time). Abe's mom found out he was missing on November 12th and, with his wife, filed a missing person's report with the Atlanta Police Department.  On 11/30, a Saguache County deputy checked Atlanta PD's missing persons list and saw a picture and description of the jeep. Saguache did what Abe's mom calls a "small" SAR mission that week and then had the larger search organized by December 4th. The Colorado National Guard was initially going to participate with a helicopter but then pulled out due to the amount of time between first sighting and the date of the SAR response. Extensive SAR efforts near Crestone have been unsuccessful.
Also according to Abe's mom, at the trailhead north of Crestone where his Jeep was found, search dogs found scent only in the Jeep, but nothing on the trail.  At first, there was just one dog, and then the 40-man SAR team with 3 K-9s tried a second time that same week, during which snow was still sparse--maybe 3 to 5 inches max in some places in late November. One SAR member compiled the maps of areas that had been searched and continued searching on his own for 15 more days.

A website has been set up to share information about the search for Abisha. This is the search summary from that site:
  • Abisha leaves Atlanta, Georgia 10/21/10 driving a Black Jeep Wrangler
  • Deputy observes Jeep parked at the North Crestone Trailhead on 10/26/10
  • Possible sightings in Crestone, Colorado around late October
  • Possible sightings in Alamosa, Colorado around late October or early November
  • SAR member notices Jeep missing (for no more than a day) on 11/03/10
  • SAR member does not notice anything unusual during hikes in N. Crestone or nearby
    drainages from 11/2/2010 - 11/9/2010
  • SAR member does not notice anything unusual during hikes both south and north
    of Crestone, Colorado from 11/14/2010 - 11/21/2010
  • Family is informed of the abandoned Jeep on 11/30/2010
  • Jeep is towed by Saguache County Sheriff's Office on 11/30/2010
  • Official Search is conducted in North Crestone drainage by 40 SAR members on 12/04/10
  • Unofficial Mountain Search by S&R Member (12/08/2010 - 1/08/2011)
  • Unofficial Road Search by friend Sean Monesson (1/02/2011 - 1/27/2011)
See for more information, including additional photos of Abe, areas searched, and Abe's bio.


Announcement: SAR Conference date change

The Arizona State Search and Rescue Conference held in Heber, Arizona, has been rescheduled for April 15 -17.

The K9 portion of the conference will, however, still be held from April 28 - May 1, but in Flagstaff instead of Heber. For information, please contact Cindy McArthur at