SDMRT 2020-02 Dos Picos

SDMRT Operations Report 2020-02

Full Callout, Missing Person, Dos Picos County Park, Ramona, CA

Patrick Farnham

6 February 2020

Authors: Mark Kenny ITC, Bill McNaul, Responder

SDMRT Responders: Bair, Dalrymple, Hatala, Kimmerly, Litwin, Macelt, Masser, McNaul, Tischer, White


Other responding organizations: SDSO SAR, ASTREA, CalFire, SDFD, SDSO deputies

Short Summary:

  • Type of Callout: Full callout
  • In County or Mutual Aid: In County
  • Type of search: Search for missing/at risk individual
  • Environment: Rural on county land
  • Location
    • PLS: Campsite at Dos Picos County Park
    • Command Post: parking area at Dos Picos County Park
    • Found near Iron Mountain and extracted by SDFD Copter 1
  • Operational period 1
    • Earliest Activity: 2/6/2020 at 1530 (Sgt. Vengler/Wagner pre-planning)
    • Searcher callout 2/6/2020 at 17:56
    • Searcher 10-22 2/6/2020 at 20:06
    • Conclusion of operations: (Bill, when did responders depart?)
  • Information about the Subject:
    • Number/Name(s) of Subject(s): 1 subject, Patrick Farnham
    • Age/Gender: 29 year old male
    • Level of fitness and experience: not reported
    • Mental status: likely impaired (history of alcoholism)
    • Injuries: none reported (subject was injured when found)
    • How were they found: ASTREA using FLIR combined with spot light visual
  • Injuries to Searchers: No injuries
  • Aircraft used: ASTREA used to search area, locate subject and insert/retrieve responders; SDFD Copter 1 to extract subject.


SDSO SAR Search Management Unit Summary:

On February 5, 2020 at 2111 hours, deputies responded to investigate a report of a missing person from the Dos Picos Park Campgrounds in Ramona. The reporting party stated her 29-year-old son, Patrick Farnham, had last been seen around 1700 hours, may have been drinking, had no history of mental illness, no disabilities, and had never gone missing before. ASTREA responded and conducted a thorough search of the area. Deputies also searched on foot in the surrounding park, but Patrick was not located. Patrick’s brother told deputies that Patrick was an alcoholic and may have walked into town to go to a bar. Deputies conducted bar checks of all bars in Ramona, but Patrick was not located. Patrick was entered into the missing persons system.

On February 6, 2020, the Ramona detectives received the case and learned that Patrick had not been located yet. Approximately 40 Search and Rescue and San Diego Mountain Rescue volunteers responded. ASTREA also responded again and conducted an extensive search of the area as search groups were being formed. ASTREA spotted Patrick laying on a rock near Iron Mountain and inserted the Tactical Flight Officer and a Search and Rescue Medic to render aid. Patrick had injuries to his leg and arm and had to be hoisted out by San Diego Fire Copter 1 who transported him to Palomar Hospital for medical treatment. Patrick’s family was notified he had been located.

Bill Wagner, SMU Leader

Here is a debrief on our search for Patrick Farnham last night in Ramona.

At about 1530, I received a request to meet DV at Dos Picos Campground in Ramona to consult on a missing person case that he had learned about two hours previous. I responded and met him at the campground at 1620. A 29 y/o WMA had disappeared from his family’s trailer at 1500 the previous day. The disappearance had been reported by the family at 2200 and deputies and ASTREA did some searching of the area but found nothing.

They also checked local bars. The Subject, Patrick Farnham, is a alcoholic and his mother reported that he was very drunk at the time he disappeared. She had been walking their dogs around the area near their trailer and when she returned 15 minutes later, Farnham was gone. He had said nothing about leaving and his car was still at the campground. His mother reported that when he is drunk, "he makes bad decisions." He was wearing only black pants and a reflective silver windbreaker. Temperatures had reached near freezing on Wednesday night and were not going to be much warmer on Thursday night.

Farnham had a cell phone but couldn’t make or receive calls (no remaining minutes). The phone company found a ping from the tower on Mt. Woodson just before he went missing. The radius of the ping included the campground. No pings were found after. After his phone plan was reactivated at about 1700 yesterday, his mother called him several times with no response.

DV and I conferred with the local deputies who had been working the case and the two of us huddled on how to proceed. We both had some hesitation about calling everyone out because our subject was a healthy young adult who had voluntarily left his location. But given the low temperatures and his light clothing, DV decided to activate SAR. I called Joe Sprecco and he agreed to bring MC5.

I recommended that he call Pam Medhurst and get some dogs out to see if we could establish a direction of travel. We ended up with two trailing and three area dogs. Then the call out was issued.

i was able to grab a lift in ASTREA to see the area from above while we were waiting for people to show up. The terrain surrounding the campground and adjacent county park is steep, rocky, and covered in thick brush. Many trails criss-cross the area as well. After seeing the terrain, I’d made the preliminary decision that our search would be contained to the campground and park areas, plus the residences adjacent on the south side but that we would not send people into the brush at night. ASTREA said that they were going to continue do search for a while longer using FLIR before returning to base for fuel.

Jim arrived soon after and MC5 not long after that, so we relocated. I’d sent two Canine members to get a scent article. We put together a trailing dog team and an area dog team to deploy but just as they were preparing to depart the CP, we got word that ASTREA had spotted our subject near Iron Mountain. We held the teams while this played out. And it would end up that only one more team would be deployed. More on that in a moment.

ASTREA told us later that they had completed their FLIR work and had decided to do one last pass using their search light before departing the area. When they did, they saw a bright flash of light reflected on a hillside – the subject’s reflective silver jacket. They used the PA and asked him to wave if was Patrick. The subject waved but appeared otherwise unable to move.

We immediately started thinking about options to get him medical assistance and evacuated. ASTREA said they could take one SAR member and asked if we had someone "who has medical skills, is a good hiker, and is light." That sounded like a perfect description of Jim Metts and he was tapped to go. We pulled together a light pack for him with a sleeping bag, his medical gear, a flashlight, radio, and helmet and he was transported to the subject. He and the ASTREA flight officer got off the helicopter and crashed through dense brush about 0.5 miles (estimate) to the subject. He complained of pain in his limbs and was shivering. No other major medical issues were found. He had great difficulty moving. Jim and the flight officer evaluated him and started warming him up.

Back at the CP, Cal Fire was now present and DV coordinated helicopter options with them. It was decided that the best plan was to get a SDFD copter to hoist the subject out and then take him directly to Palomar Hospital (ASTREA does not do hoist rescues at night). We called for an ambulance to come to the CP as well in case the subject ended up coming back to our location. Jim and his ASTREA partner had to move the subject to an area indicated by the SDPD copter crew. They packaged Farnham in a screamer suit and lifted him out. ASTREA then retrieved Jim and the flight officer and returned to the CP.

40 SAR and SDMRT members responded. Only the scent article team and Jim were deployed. It was the consensus afterwards as we debriefed with Jim and the ASTREA crew that Patrick would likely not have survived another night without rescue.

Lessons learned/ suggestions for future operations:

Prior to the arrival of MC5 SGT Vengler and I (Bill McNaul) studied the map of the area. Using a google map app on his tablet. We were aware of the subject’s interest in “climbing rocks”. There is a local climbing area not too far from the LKP. It is possible to access this rocky area from Dos Picos Park via a disused graded road the leaves south from Dos Picos Road just west of the LKP. We discussed sending a hasty team up this road. Soon we were informed of the subject being located in an area near Iron Mountain. Subsequent information showed the exact location (see attached photo) to be near the end of the disused graded road (yellow) It is unknown whether the subject took this road.

Lessons learned:

Local knowledge of the search area can be very important during search planning. Both SGT Vengler and I live within 5 miles of the search area.