By Mary O’KEEFE
Henry Richard Derusha, 76, of Silverlake told his family he would be camping for a few days in the Angeles National Forest, a common event for the avid hiker. However when he did not return by Monday morning his family became worried.
Montrose Search and Rescue responded to the call at 8 a.m. on Monday and found Derusha’s body about eight hours later.
After an examination, the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office found Derusha had multiple blunt force injuries, said Ed Winter, coroner spokesman.
“The death has been ruled an accident due to a fall,” he added.
Derusha had set out for the Switzer Fall’s campground on Friday.
“He was alone,” said J Paneno, MSR operations leader. “He told his [family] he would be home on Saturday or Sunday.”
Teams found his vehicle parked at Switzer’s parking lot on Monday morning.
“He had hiked a lot with the Sierra Club and was a mountain climber. He had climbed Mt. Whitney,” Paneno said.
The search began on the Bear Canyon path but after there were no signs of Derusha, Paneno expanded the search.
MSR member Janet Henderson and Cindy England followed a drainage path near Switzer’s, where they found the body.
Paneno added it appeared that Derusha had gone off the trail from Bear Canyon.
“Instead of going up, he went down stream. We don’t know why,” he said.
Paneno added that since Derusha was a confident hiker he more then likely knew where the trail would meet up again.
“He might have been trying to get back down to the trail,” he added.
Team members had little light left when Derusha’s body was found. They had planned on airlifting him out of the area.
“We tried to [use] the [L.A. County] fire department’s helicopter, they are the only ones that fly at night, but they couldn’t [safely] do it,” Paneno said. “Janet and Cindy [along with a member of the Sierra Madre team] stayed until the next morning when LASD Air-5 was able to airlift [him out].”
Prior to the search, MSR members had rescued two bicyclists from a nearby area. They had arrived home at about 1 a.m. and then were called out a few hours later for the Derusha search.
Henderson and England hiked a lot of the area before finding the hiker’s body. Then both stayed throughout the night to make certain the body was safe, and helped with the next morning’s airlift.
Paneno praised the two members for their dedication. Members of the team also stayed at a nearby command center throughout the night as well.