SDMRT 2020-06 Pine Cove Mutual Aid

SDMRT Operations Report 2020 – 06

Limited Type 1 Mutual Aid Callout – Missing Person

Pine Cove, CA

Roy Prifogle, Age 52

7 – 8 March 2020

SDMRT Responders: Tony Rolfe (OL), John Hatala, Kevin Litwin, Alicia Trigeiro, Richard Yocum (OL), Dave Brandt, Nick McGuinness, Dave Brandt, Marshall Masser, Ming Chaung, Robert Badere, Will Dalrymple, and Bill McNaul

SDMRT ITC: Hugo Bermudez

Other responding organizations: 03/07/2020 – RMRU, China Lake and approx. 20 personnel; 03/08/2020 – RMRU, SDSD SAR, Approx 150 people searched during the full six days of searching; other responding organizations were San Bernardino County SAR, Orange County SAR, and K-9s from the nonprofit and volunteer group Riverside County Search Dogs

Short Summary:

  • Type of callout: Limited Type 1
  • Out of County Mutual Aid requested by Riverside County Sheriff’s Department/Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit
  • Type of search: Search for missing person
  • Environment: Rural and backcountry
  • Location:
    • LKP / PLS – vicinity of Acorn Lane/Wrightwood Drive in Pine Cove
    • CP – Wrightwood Drive in Pine Cove
  • Operational periods, if applicable:
    • Operational period 2 began with an 0800 March 7th briefing at the Camp Ronald McDonald Lake Hemet. SDMRT teams finished for the day by 1700 returning to Camp Ronald McDonald.
    • Operational period 3 began at 0800 from the Waste water treatment plant returning to the CP by mid afternoon.
  • Information about the subject:
    • Name: Roy Prifogle
    • Age: 52
    • Level of fitness/experience: Reported that subject hikes frequently in the area
    • Mental Status: Unknown. Subject reported by sheriff as being a substance abuser, notably methamphetamine
    • Injuries: None reported
    • Subject not located.
  • Any rescuers injured: only some minor scrapes during Operational Period 2 – 03/07/2020, only some minor scrapes during Operational Period 3 – 03/08/2020
  • Aircraft used: Riverside Air and drones

Descriptive Report:

A limited type 1 out of county mutual aid request was made on the evening of 03/06/2020 for missing person Roy Prifogle, 52, a Pine Cove local. He was reported missing to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department after reportedly going on a hike in the Pine Cove area Wednesday, 03/04/2020, and not returning. He was reported to the sheriff as missing on 03/05/2020. His vehicle was found in the area of Acorn Lane and Wrightwood Drive in Pine Valley. Family and friends say he frequently hiked in the canyons to the West of the found vehicle’s location. Mr. Prifogle is known to the local LE as an individual with a history of substance abuse. LE reported his roommate received a text from Mr. Prifogle indicating that he was out hiking and would be out for a few hours but was expected to return home that night. Later he texted he was in need of assistance, that he was going to work his way down to a creek for some water and sent some numbers in the text. The LE asked if it could be possible the numbers were a gps location, to which the roommate responded they may have been, but she erased the text. Attempts to retrieve the data were unsuccessful.

Eleven SDMRT met for the briefing at 0800 on 03/07/2020 at the Ronald McDonald camp in Lake Hemet. After the briefing, four teams were formed and given assignments in the canyons to the West of the subject’s vehicle location. All teams reported difficult terrain with many sections of impassable brush and thickets. Additionally, teams encountered potential grow sites, drug processing materials, irrigation tubing, off-road vehicles, active gunfire, and hostile locals. Most teams completed between three and five field assignments back-to-back before returning to the CP which was established at the end of Wrightwood Drive right above an old Girl Scout camp. Nothing that could be traced back to the subject was found with the exception of some possible tracks found by one of the field teams that led into the area where drug processing materials were seen.

On 03/08/2020 Richard Yocum and Bill McNaul and one other SDSAR representative were tasked with searching in the area surrounding the waste water treatment facility. Search was inhibited due to dense vegetation. Only about 30% of the assignment was completed before our assignment was terminated due to SARGAR red issues. Sgt Vengler was present in a support role. Nothing remarkable was found.

After the conclusion of SDMRT’s involvement on the search, the subject’s backpack was found. There have been no other clues found. Searchers continued for six full days of searching in between inclement weather for eight to ten hours per day, Prifogle was not located. At about 1700 on Sunday, 03/15/2020, the search was called off.

The Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit, as well as search and rescue volunteers from SDSD SAR, San Bernardino County, Orange County, Sierra Madre and China Lake, were assisting in the search. In total, about 150 people searched during those six days. Air support including drones and helicopters were utilized, along with search dogs from RCSD, and K-9s from the nonprofit and volunteer group Riverside County Search Dogs.

Lessons learned/ suggestions for future operations:

  1. Don’t be afraid to reject search assignments. Some of the assignments took teams into near impenetrable brush and shrub. Without a better plan for insertion and extrication of the teams there was a chance that relatively short assignments on the map would turn into all day events.
  2. Reassess your team’s safety frequently. In addition to the difficult terrain the area is frequented by fast moving off-road vehicles, drug grows, ad hoc shooting ranges, and unfriendly local people. The need to frequently re-evaluate a team’s safety became apparent as teams stumbled upon each of the above situations.
  3. Be completely confident of your assignment prior to leaving the CP. Clearly understand your assignment area with respect to other team assignments adjacent to your area. Our area was bisected by a creek which was assigned to another team. Not realizing this our team wasted time working a short section of the creek before running into the other team.