Montrose Search and Rescue has a new team leader – 21-year search and rescue veteran Robert Sheedy.
“It is an honor and privilege to be part of this team,” Sheedy said. “I feel so fortunate and am lucky to be able to do what I do.”
Sheedy has been a member of Montrose Search and Rescue for 12 years; prior to that he had spent nine years with Sierra Madre Search and Rescue. Talking to him for any length of time one gets the sense that what he does is a real calling.
“We are typically helping someone in a desperate situation,” he said. “We are helping someone in need … whether that be a lost hiker or mountain biker or a vehicle off the road.”
MSR members are reserve deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept. They work on a volunteer basis for a pay of $1 a year.
It is often difficult to determine if their emergency pagers are attached to them or they to their pagers. Team members are always at the ready; emergencies happen at all hours, not only during a few hours on the weekend. The members’ pagers can and do activate during family dinners, birthdays and holidays.
“There is that tremendous sense of urgency to get to the station, to get deployed, to get on the scene and to react to [what we find],” Sheedy said.
Sheedy has responded to numerous emergencies during his 21 years in search and rescue.
“The [Jet Propulsion Laboratory] van [accident] in 2004, the Metrolink crash in Chatsworth and the Station Fire,” Sheedy said when asked about memorable responses.
In December 2004, a commuter van from JPL carrying 10 people went over the side of the Angeles Crest Highway. Three people were killed. In September 2008 a Metrolink passenger train collided with a freight train in Chatsworth. A reported 25 people died in the collision. The Station Fire in August 2009 was responsible for the death of two firefighters. The wildfire burned about 353 square miles within the Angeles National Forest.
There were other call-outs that stay in Sheedy’s memory, from those rescued to those calls that became a recovery mission instead. He remembers them all.
On Christmas day there was a rescue of two hikers.
“When you get the call you don’t know what you are going to find,” he said.
The team had an idea where the hikers were, so two members went down one path and two down another path.
“We got to them very late on Christmas night, and they were cold to the bone and on a high rock … they were ‘cliffed out,’” he said.
They were able to rescue the two hikers and walk them back to their vehicle.
The team works throughout L.A. County and beyond, but concentrates a lot of their time within the Angeles National Forest.
“Sometimes what we do is a life and death situation and other times it’s just giving directions to someone,” Sheedy said.
Sheedy was part of the response team this past weekend when a 60-year-old ski patrol officer died of injuries he sustained when he apparently struck trees and rocks while skiing at Mt. Waterman.
Saturday the MSR team received a call-out concerning a call in the Angeles National Forest of a hiker who had gotten lost after walking off a trail. Janet Henderson and John Camphouse responded. Sheedy and Steve Goldsworthy arrived at the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station and were on their way to assist the other two MSR members when they heard a call on the radio concerning a ski injury. At first it was reported as a shoulder injury but soon radio chatter turned more serious.
“It was much more severe. [The man apparently] went off course and hit trees and rocks,” Sheedy said.
The ski patrol had brought the injured man almost to the road and was administrating CPR. When Sheedy arrived he and Goldsworthy took over administering CPR while they waited for the Los Angeles County Fire Dept. air unit to arrive. LACoFD paramedics then took over; however, the man was pronounced dead at the scene. The victim was a ski patrol officer but he was not working at the time.
At the same time another man had an accident on the slopes and had to be airlifted to a nearby hospital.
Sheedy reiterated that MSR members never know what is going to happen from the time of the call-out to the arrival on-scene.
“You have to be prepared. No two situations are alike, whether it is a lost hiker or mountain biker we have to initiate the search so we can close off the routes between point A and point B and hope to find them in between,” he said of searching. “We have a tremendous team, we all work together.”
Sheedy added that family is probably the most important part of being a MSR member and leader.
“You can’t forget [our] spouses … without their support we can’t do this.”