SDMRT 2019-18

SDMRT Operations Report SDMRT 2019-18 Fresno Search

Oct 19-20, 2019

Bill McNaul and Dave Brandt

SDMRT Responders: Dave Brandt and Bill McNaul

SDMRT ITC: Mark Kenney with handoff to Hugo Bermudas

Marin County

Riverside County

Trinity County

CARDA

Sierra Madre

San Diego County

SDMRT

San Luis Obispo

BAMRU

Yolo County

Contra Costa County

Fresno County

El Dorado County

Approximate number of personnel overall: 100

Short Summary:

  • Type of callout: limited to Type 1 and Type 2
  • Mutual aid local SAR team Fresno County Sheriff’s Department
  • Type of search: search for evidence with possible body recovery
  • Environment: Sierra National Forest
  • Location
    • Last Known Point / Point Last Seen approx. 3.8 mile east of CP
    • Command Post 11 S 311129 4081489 WGS84
    • Found: not found
  • Operational periods, if applicable 2 (Oct 19 and Oct 20)
  • Call out Wed Oct 16, 1253
  • Leave San Diego Fri Oct 18, 0700
  • Arrive CP Fri Oct 18, 1500
  • Briefing Sat Oct 19, 0700
  • Return to San Diego Sun Oct 20, 2400
  • Information about the subjects:
    • Number/names of subjects: one/Hans Lamaack
    • Ages, Genders: 65 y/o WMA
    • Level of fitness and experience: good fitness regularly walks 5-10 mile a day not familiar with the out of doors and had no equipment or food.
    • Mental status alcoholic, smoker with undiagnosed dementia unknown mental state
    • Injuries, if applicable: unknown
    • How were they found (family friend, Sheriff, self-signaling, bystander): not found
  • Any rescuers injured: none
  • Aircraft used: Fresno County Sheriff’s Helicopter used for repeater placement and insertion of some teams

Summary:

On Friday 08/30/19 at 1330 subject spoke with his wife on his cell phone while he was waiting outside the vet’s office in Fresno to get meds for his dog. Subject was not aware the vet’s office closed at 1200 that day. On 8/30/19 at 1730 the subject’s cell phone pinged off of a tower approximately one hour east of Fresno, in the direction his car was eventually located.

On 09/04/19 subjected was reported missing by his adult son from a previous marriage.

On 09/14/19 a US Forest Service employee noticed the subject’s car unusually parked on a single lane dirt road in the Sierra National Forest. He ran the plate, but did not get a hit because the plate was entered incorrectly on the missing person’s report.

On 09/21/19 a mountain biker from the bay area noticed the subject’s car unusually parked and noted the license plate. Upon arriving home he googled the license plate and got a hit on a Facebook page, “Help Find My Dad.”

On 09/24/19 Fresno County Sheriff’s Deputies confirmed the car was the subject’s and this was the Last Known Point (LKP). The car was facing west, opposite the initial direction of travel, but towards the exit. In the brush near the car they located a bag with 3 empty beers, one of which was a Miller High Life tall boy, the subject’s drink of choice. The car was removed for forensic analysis where it was determined to have a dead battery. The engine had also blown a rod and there was a hole in the oil pan. When the battery was replaced the headlights and flashers came on. On the dirt road the deputies were able to locate where the oil pan was punctured and where the subject subsequently turned his vehicle around. There is no cell phone service in the valley where the car was located. Based on the time of the cell phone ping, and the car lights switched on, the deputies believe it was dark when the car became disabled.

Over the next 3 weeks the Fresno County Sheriff’s SAR searched for the subject over 11 operational periods. On 10/16/19 a mutual aid call went out for 6 searchers needed on 10/18/19 and 10/19/19. Bill McNaul and Dave Brandt responded from SDMRT along with 2 SDSDSAR personnel. A van for transport was authorized and on Friday, 10/18/19, at 0700 the 4 searchers departed San Diego COC. They arrived at the CP at 1500.

By Saturday, 10/19/19, approximately 12 agencies and 100 personnel had responded to the mutual aid request, including 2 canine units, 2 swift water rescue teams and 2 tech teams. The briefing commenced at 0700. The Kings River runs parallel to the dirt road where the subject’s vehicle was located. When the subject went missing the river was flowing at 2,000 cfs. Since the flow was now down to 300 cfs, the river and newly exposed areas of river bottom were a priority for searchers. The 4 San Diego searchers were paired with a canine unit from San Luis Obispo as Team 3. Our assignment was approximately 2 miles upstream (east) from the LKP along the same dirt road. We departed the CP at 0815 and commenced searching at 0900. Our first task was to search a small triangular shaped gully on the north side of the road. At the road the gully is 100 feet wide and tapers to 20 feet about 200 feet in. It ends in a rock wall 30 feet high with high angle walls on both sides. We finished searching this area at 1000 and began our primary assignment which was south of the road between the road and the river. Due to the course of the river the width of the search area varied from 100 meters (where campsites were located) to just a few feet. Due to large rock formations the narrow areas were impassable and we had to return to the road to continue the search. The overall length of the search area was approximately 1.5 miles. The terrain was predominately flat with lots of river rocks and strainers. Also, there were dense, nearly impenetrable thickets and poison oak was everywhere. The canine was trained in cadaver and area searches so he was generally located at the river’s edge. We completed our assignment with no findings at 1545 and returned to the CP at 1630.

The briefing on Sunday, 10/20/19 commenced at 0700. It was reported that some of the teams had found bones the day before and all of those bones were confirmed to be animal by an anthropologist. We were again paired with the canine unit from San Luis Obispo as Team 7 and our assignment was an area 5 miles downstream (west) from the CP. The search area was roughly trapezoidal in shape and approximately 5/8 of a mile by 3/8 of a mile. The terrain was hilly, primarily grass and trees with steep gullies, rocks and dense thickets. We commenced searching at 0900 and completed our assignment at 1445. There was one area the canine showed an interest in that we could not access because of the steep terrain. Although he did not alert, we notified the CP for possible follow-up. There being no further assignment, we returned to the CP at 1520. With the search officially ended we decided to return to San Diego Sunday evening instead of Monday morning. We departed the CP at 1630 and returned to the COC at 2330.

Lessons learned/ suggestions for future operations:

Use of the Inreach for back up communication seems like a good idea. Fresno also had viable internet access. Also, Fresno downloaded the tracking information from all GPS devices to build a composite map of the areas searched. While not all searchers had GPS, this still provided a detailed search history.