Helicopters Light Up Hillsides in Search of Stranded Hikers

Photo courtesy of John FISANOTTI
Photo courtesy of John FISANOTTI
Helicopters lit up the side of a mountain on Monday for the search and rescue of two local teens.



A hike for two teens ended with three helicopters and a call out for the Montrose Search and Rescue team.

On Monday, Jake Miller and his friend Ian McBride, both 18, had planned on hiking up a short way on a trail in Deukmejian Wilderness Park then get back before sunset. Their plan changed a little when they took what they thought was a familiar trail but then realized that  everything was unfamiliar. Then the sun began to set. Plans changed even more when they found themselves walking over rugged terrain in total darkness.

“[My friend] Ian and I met up to go on a hike around 4 p.m. at Deukmejian, ” Miller said. “We took the Crescenta View trail that leads to the top of the mountain. It was pretty nice and going well. We reached the top and we kept going. There was another trail…”

What what they thought was part of the trail system was not, and they found themselves lost.

“It got dark really fast; the sun started to set and within 10 to 15 minutes it was dark,” Miller said. “We tried to follow the ridge line, we were bushwhacking down the side of the mountain and found ourselves in the middle of a ravine. [By then] it was pitch black.”

He said the two remained cautious as they walked over the terrain. They continued to try to find a path that would lead them home but soon found themselves at the edge of a cliff.

“It was about a 200 foot drop,” he said. “We looked around the canyon and there was no way out.”

By now it was about 8:30 p.m. and the boys knew they were not going to find their way out. McBride’s cellphone battery was dead but Miller still had power.

“We were pretty lucky. I can’t imagine what would have happened if both [cellphones] were dead,” he said.

Miller called 911 and was connected with the Glendale Police Dept., who sent their airship.

“The helicopter flew by us twice,” Miller said.

The boys were concerned because of the darkness and that they were hidden in a ravine and might not be found. The GPD dispatch officer told them to use their cellphone light to help the helicopter pilot find them. It worked.

“That first moment the [helicopter] light landed on us I thought, ‘thank God,’” Miller said.

The helicopter and all the lights got the attention of many of the local residents, even Montrose Search and Rescue captain John Camphouse. He heard the helicopter and saw the light, and then his pager went off.

“The call came in shortly after
9 p.m. to respond to the top of Pine Cone; these kids were stuck on the side of the cliff,” Camphouse said.

The boys were in a difficult area for helicopters and hikers. The GPD air support made first contact with the boys, and then called in a L.A. County helicopter.

“It was breezy at the time and the [pilot] made several attempts to get to the boys,” Camphouse said.

The plan was to hoist them into the helicopter. In the meantime, Camphouse and team members Steve Goldsworthy and Mike Leum began hiking toward the boys.

“Leum went to the top of the ravine and Camphouse and Goldsworthy were at the lower section of the area. Glendale kept their search lights on the trail; they were very helpful,” Camphouse said.

The wind had picked up and a larger helicopter was requested.

“I remember distinctly every time the helicopter would come close it would kick up dust. One of those times I couldn’t see [well because of the dust], then out of nowhere I heard a voice said, ‘How the **** did you guys get here?’” Miller said.

That was the best sound he could ever hear. L.A. County fire paramedics strapped Miller first then McBride into harnesses and hoisted them, one at a time, into the helicopter.

Miller remembers swaying as he was hoisted, at one point dragging through the top of a tree.

“They brought us to the CV [High School] football field and checked us for injuries,” he said.

The boys were not injured.

McBride had not been hiking in awhile and wanted to start again. Miller had been hiking several times in Deukmejian. Neither expected the night to end with a helicopter ride.

“I had never been on a helicopter before, they are very loud,” he said.

At the end of the night, Glendale police, Los Angeles County sheriff and fire had all worked to rescue the two boys.

“I can’t say enough about [those who helped us],” Miller said. I would like to say thank you to everybody who all worked to save [us].”