SDMRT 2018-06 Ocotillo Wells

SDMRT 2018-06 Ocotillo Wells

22 June 2018

SDMRT Responders: Marshall Masser, Dennis Peck, Will Pisarello, Dylan Bodkin, Frank Ortega, Mark Johnson, Kyle Albertson, Tim Stempel, Arun John, Brian White

Other responding organizations: SDSDSAR, BORSTAR, Anza Borrego State Park Rangers

Short Summary:

  • Type of callout: Search
  • In-county San Diego
  • Type of search: Rural
  • Location: Ocotillo Wells
    • CP: 33.1550, -116.1688 WGS84
    • LKP (Abandoned Vehicle): 33.2218, -116.1987 WGS84
    • Found: 33.1672, -116.1523 WGS84
  • Earliest time of activity: Initial call out at 1122 6/22/18
  • Operational periods: 1
    • 6/22/18 1122-1717 (6 hours)
  • Information about the subject:
    • Number/names of subjects: 1, Lizarraga Manuel Cornejo
    • Age: 31
    • Level of fitness and preparedness: Unknown
    • Mental status: No impairments
    • Injuries, if applicable: Deceased. No obvious signs of injury.
    • How were they found: Ground team.
    • Any rescuers injured: None
  • Aircraft used: 2 Helicopters

Descriptive Report

Daytime weather, 110 degrees & sunny.

Subject was reported missing 1100 6/20/18 by his family. He had called them for assistance and they had been unable to locate him. Subject’s vehicle, a large truck, was located by State Park’s Rangers the morning of 6/22/18, severely stuck in sand (33.2218, -116.1987). SDSDSAR was contacted at approximately 1000.

The call-out to SDSDAR & SDMRT was issued at 1122.

A BORSTAR team was deployed first and located the subjects tracks traveling NorthWest from his vehicle. BORSTAR continued to track approximately 2 miles northwest (33.2519, -116.2104) of the LKP.

SDMRT/SDSAR Team 1 (3 members of SDSAR and Marshall Masser of SDMRT) was deployed approximately 1420. This team traveled by vehicle looking for sign up Hills of the Moon wash to Rainbow wash, rendezvoused with BORSTAR, and returned via San Felipe wash.

Passing The Cove campground, the subject was spotted at the restroom. Marshall noticed the body of a man in the corner of the south pit toilet porch from the vehicle. The wallet which was lying next to the body confirmed it was the subject. The subject was deceased. Back-tracking showed the subject has come to the area from the north in the wash.

Additional Reporting from SDSDSAR

Missing person Manuel Lizarraga 30 year old male, 6’1", 190 pounds. Last spoke to family on 6/20, stating his truck was stuck and needed help. Family searched for him on 6/21, but could not find him. Family went to Indio PD and filed a missing person report. State Park Ranger Kent Miller called SAR on 6/22 requesting assistance. Vehicle was located at 33.22100 -116.20054, at about 1000 hours on 6/22.

final mission report: On 6/22/18, at about 0915 hours, I listened to a desk phone message from California State Park Ranger Kent Miller. The message had been left on 6/21/18 at 2057 hours. Miller’s message stated he may have a missing male who was driving his Ford F250 off road and was stuck, somewhere in Ocotillo Wells.

I called Miller back at about 0918 hours, Miller re-stated what he had said in his message, but he now had a possible location of the vehicle. Miller was extremely busy, and asked to call me back later. Miller called me back at about 0924 hours, and confirmed they had located the truck. His Rangers were following footprints going away from the truck; reassuring me they would not destroy the track for Tac Search. Miller said he would call me back if they couldn’t find the driver.

Miller called me back at about 0950 hours, stating they could not find the driver. Miller then told me how he received the call. Miller received a call from Indio Police Department at about 1515 hours on 6/21/18. The officer stated he was conducting a missing person investigation reference, Manuel Lizzarraga, 30 years old. Manuel has no medical conditions and is believed to be in good health. The officer stated, on 2/20/18, Manuel called his family in Fillmore (a community of Ventura County) stating his truck was stuck. Manuel gave his family GPS coordinates placing him near Cut Across Trail and 5 Palms, in Ocotillo Wells. The family drove from Ventura County to search for Manuel (the time frame is not clear). The family did not initially alert the authorities. When the family could not locate Manuel, they drove to Indio and filed a missing person report with Indio PD. Indio PD then notified Miller at Ocotillo Wells State Park.

State Park Rangers began to check the area given by the family, but they could not locate the vehicle. State Parks then "pinged" the cell phone, which initially gave the same coordinates, Cut Across Trail and 5 Palms. A subsequent "ping" showed the phone near Tamarisk Park. State Parks requested Sheriff’s air support (ATREA) to assist in searching both areas, ASTREA was unable to locate the vehicle or driver. State Parks discontinued there search for the night.

On the morning of 6/22/18, State Parks fixed wing air support began a search of the area. At about 0915 hours, the fixed wing pilot noticed the vehicle at GPS coordinates 33.22100 -116.20054. State Parks’ ground units were dispatched to the area and confirmed the vehicle as the one reported missing. The F250 truck was buried in the sand up to the axles. They noted one of the exterior mirrors was broken and there was blood smeared across the truck. They conducted a hasty search of the area, but were unable to find Manuel.

Ranger Miller called me at about 0950 hours, requesting Sheriff’s resources. Sheriff’s ASTREA was dispatched to the area. ASTREA searched the area for a couple hours but was unable to locate Manuel. I notified BORSTAR (knowing their El Centro Office is just a few miles away) to request their assistance, and I called out Search and Rescue.

SAR and BORSTAR began arriving at about 1345 hours. Approximately 39 BORSTAR, SDMRT, Sheriff’s Drone Team and SAR members arrived to assist. Teams began deploying. State Park Rangers met with BORSTAR, and they began to follow Manuel’s foot tracks to the west, to the north and to the east continuing for about 4 miles. A SAR team consisting of 4 members, Marshall Masser (MRT), Jan Ophof (SAR), John Bruce (SAR) and Russell Machado (SAR Team Lead) was deployed ahead of the BORSTAR team to pick up any further track as needed and directed by the BORSTAR team. Due to the 111 degree weather conditions Machado’s team was asked to return to base after being out for about 2 hours. The team decided to take a different route back to base. As SAR Member Jan Ophof drove through Felipe Wash, and approached an outhouse, MRT Member Marshall Masser noticed something (as he sat in left rear seat) near the outhouse. He notified the other members, and they proceeded to investigate. Some of the other members began to notice foot prints in the sand leading to the outhouse. As they approached to within about 20 yards they noticed clothing on the ground, then a wallet, then socks and boots. As they approached the privacy wall of the outhouse, they saw an obviously deceased body lying on the ground and partially leaning up against the privacy wall. SAR Member John Bruce opened the wallet as it lay on the ground and saw the California ID of Manuel Lizarraga. At about 1708 hours, Machado notified the Command Post that they had located the subject. The primary deputy, Deputy Bill Painter was notified and he drove out to meet with Machado’s team. All other search teams were notified to return to base.

Deputy Painter will be handling the initial death investigation and will subsequently turn the investigation over to the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office.

I notified Rescue Supervisor Cathy Metts, who leads the SAR Peer support team, and asked if she would reach out to the four members of Machado’s team.

Fred Duey, Sergeant

San Diego Sheriff’s Department

Search and Rescue Coordinator

1745 N. Marshall Ave

El Cajon, Ca 92020