SDMRT 2017-17 Ronald Barnes, Descanso, CA

SDMRT 2017-17 Ronald Barnes, Descanso, CA
30-31 December 2017

Submitted by Richard Yocum

SDMRT Responders:

Jesse Ma

Bill McNaul

Michelle Bearmar

TJ Tischer

Brian White

Brett Stanley

Will Dalrymple

Richard Yocum


Other responding organizations: SDSDSAR (about 20 members), BORSTAR (about 4 members with dog), and local LE

Short Summary:

  • Type of callout: Full
  • In-county San Diego
  • Type of search: Wilderness search for missing hiker
  • Location: Near Harvey Moore trailhead off Hwy 79, between Descanso and Julian, CA
  • Earliest time of activity: 2147 call out on 30 Dec 2017
  • Operational periods: 1, from 30 -31 Dec 2017 (10-22 at 0323)
  • Information about the subject: (1 subject only)
    • Name of subject: Ronald Barnes
    • Age: 62
    • Level of fitness and preparedness: Unknown
    • Mental status: History of depression, stopped medication a couple weeks prior
    • How were they found: Ground teams, including 1 trailing dog
  • Any rescuers injured: No
  • Aircraft used: None

Descriptive Report

A 62-year-old man, Ronald Barnes, was reported missing by his family. He had reportedly been driving alone in his car and stopping to hike to vistas in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. His last contact by phone with his family was about 1400 on 30 Dec 2017, when he reported he was going to look for one more vista. His vehicle was located hours later by LE parked along Hwy 79 about 2.3 miles south of the Harvey Moore trailhead. A full callout was issued at 2147 on 30 Dec 2017.

The missing subject was a white male, 5’10", 160 lbs, with red hair, reportedly wearing white tennis shoes. His only reported medical or psychological condition was depression. A couple weeks earlier he had stopped anti-depressant medication.

The CP was established with MC5 at the Harvey Moore Trailhead, on Hwy 79, address 11603 CA-79, Descanso, CA 91916 (USNG 11S NS 39797 41381). The terrain was grasslands, rolling hills, and wooded mountains.

The earliest teams dispatched were in a motorized unit following Hwy 79, a BOSTAR team with trailing dog, and 2 ground teams each of 3 SAR personnel assigned to the east and west sides of Hwy 79, respectively, in the immediate vicinity of the LKP, which was the subject’s vehicle. The dog team retrieved scent from the subject’s vehicle and began searching at approximately 1225 on 31 Dec. The 2 ground teams arrived about 5 minutes later and began searching, at first by following the road for points of egress and clues. After about ½ hour, the dog alerted along side the west side of the road, approximately 50 yards south of the LKP. The subject’s body was visualized motionless near the bottom of a cliff, perhaps 70 feet or so below, in the Sweetwater drainage area. A climbing rope was noted nearby, suggesting this area was used as a climbing area. The BORSTAR team in the canyon was unable to reach the subject from the north, given the steep terrain. Access from the road from the east would require technical descent. The area was declared by LE to be a possible crime scene and SAR teams were paused. The map showed a trail accessing the area from the south and LE, with 2 SDSDSAR members, departed for that route while other teams returned to base.

At approximately 0240, the team had reached the subject, verified that he was deceased, and sent a photograph that allowed LE to make a positive ID with a photo of the missing subject. Notification of the family at the CP was pending arrival of LE. The remaining SAR personnel were sent home piecemeal, and a 10-22 was issued at 0323.

Lessons learned/ suggestions for future operations:

The BORSTAR dog appeared to perform very well in locating the subject on this search.

The missing subject’s family was very present at the CP, and all SAR personnel appeared to perform well with regard to remaining sensitive to information about the subjecting being located, and pending positive ID of the missing subject. This serves as a good reminder for future searches.