SDMRT 2018-05 – Vulcan Mountain

SDMRT 2018-05/1 & 2018-05/2 Vulcan Mountain

12 May 2018, 13 May 2018

SDMRT Responders:

Saturday 5/12/18: John Hatala, Steve Herman, Adam Kimmerly, Jesse Ma, Bill McNaul, Jeff Oxford, Will Pisarello, Tony Rolfe

Sunday 5/13/18: John Hatala, Adam Kimmerly, Jesse Ma, Bill McNaul, Jeff Oxford; SDSD SAR:Chris James, Russ Machado, Daren Chen

Other responding organizations: SDSDSAR, CalFire, NTSB

Short Summary:

  • Type of callout: Limited. Tech certified only.
  • In-county San Diego
  • Type of search: Recovery
  • Location: Crash Site: 11S NS 39325 66259
  • Earliest time of activity: Initial call out at 1936 5/11/18 for a briefing at 0700 5/12/18
    • Second call at 0700 for 0800 briefing on 5/12/18
  • Operational periods: 2
    • 5/12/18 0700-0815. 1 hour 15 minutes.
    • 5/13/18 0800-1500. 7 hours.
  • Information about the subject:
    • Number/names of subjects: 3
    • Age: NA
    • Level of fitness and preparedness: NA
    • Mental status: NA
    • Injuries, if applicable: Deceased
    • How were they found:
    • Any rescuers injured: No
  • Aircraft used: No. Poor weather.

Descriptive Report

A twin-engine Beachcraft Duchess aircraft crashed and ignited a fire North East of Julian at approximately 2030 5/10/18. In the area of Volcan Road and Farmer Road. 11S NS 39325 66259.

Planned recovery of three subjects from the wreckage. By 0800 5/12/18 it was determined the fire was not completely mitigated, and the recovery was postponed.

The wildfire was 100% contained at 12 acres by 5/13/18.

0700 May 13, 2018 call out for volunteers to:

a) Support a team from the National Traffic and Safety Board (NTSB); and,

b) Perform victim recovery.

A briefing took place at the Julian Sheriff’s substation with the NTSB team (4 inspectors from around the country). A plan was established to have the SAR folks perform recovery operations and serve as technical support for the NTSB team. The NTSB team was going to do the investigative work first then SAR would do the recovery. SAR support of NTSB would primarily consist of assisting them in descending 900 ft to the crash site and returning back to the starting point on Volcan Rd (see map below). Various “return check points” were established by the NTSB where they would assess the danger level and make a stop or go decision.

All teams drove to a fire base on Volcan Road near the top of Volcan Mt. arriving around 1000. A Sheriff’s Deputy (Gerry ?) was assigned to be the leader of our recovery team.

1053 Following a safety briefing by our Cal Fire “guide” we left the Volcan Rd fire base and started the descent to the crash site along the fire lines that had been established by the firefighting crews. About 20 minutes into the hike we came to an extremely steep section of the “trail” where the Cal Fire Guide pointed out that “here is where it starts getting difficult.”

This was the first NTSB decision point and all members of their team opted to not continue. At this point NTSB instructed SAR team on how to gather evidence needed by the NTSB. Russ Machado was assigned to take photos using the NTSB camera with D Chen taking notes. All other SAR folks were told to document their findings using cell phones and GPS. We essentially became the de facto NTSB crash investigative team.

The 10 member team: 5 SDMRT, 3 SDSDSAR, 1 deputy, and CalFire leader descended to near the crash site having to wait periodically for the fire crews to put down hot spots and drop some “widow maker” trees.

Once we arrived at the crash site several SAR members began surveying the debris field documenting all (photo, GPS, notes, etc) identifiable plane parts and the locations of the three victims. Victims were then packaged in preparation for subsequent long-line helo extraction. Unfortunately helo extraction was called off due to high winds and the team returned to the fire base up on Volcan Road.

1500 All teams returned to the Julian Sheriff’s substation for a debrief. Each SAR member was given an opportunity to provide their insight to the NTSB team. Photos were exchanged, and notes were discussed. Following the debrief Kathy Metts described the Critical Incident Response Team that is available from the Sheriff’s Department.

All responders were released with the possibility of being required to return to assist the long-line extraction as soon as possible. This turned out to be unnecessary as subsequent extraction was performed by other resources the next day on May 13.