Daily Bulletin

Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
01/29/16, 7:20 PM PST


Man survived 1,000-foot fall from Mt. Baldy hiking trail
By Beatriz Valenzuela, San Bernardino Sun

Jason Lopez before falling 1,000 feet
Jason Lopez on Jan. 23 before he fell 1,000 feet from a Mt. Baldy hiking trail. Courtesy photo
MT. BALDY >> What started out as a day of hiking and fun near Mt. Baldy, quickly turned into a nightmare when a Huntington Beach man fell nearly 1,000 feet down the side of the mountain.

"I remember he lost his footing and just started to slide down the side of the mountain," said Rob Wayman, 29, of Huntington Beach, who was hiking Timber Mountain on Jan. 23 with his brother-in-law Jason Lopez.

Wayman said he yelled to Lopez to dig his spiked shoes into the ground to stop his slide, but he was unable to gain traction on the slick mountainside.

"I basically watched him disappear out of sight, and I was just completely shocked," Wayman said.

Luckily, the strangers within the hiking community helped Wayman find Lopez.

A woman, Yvonne—Wayman never learned her last name—tried to call police on her ham radio. When she was not able to reach anyone that way, she texted 911, Wayman said.

The initial text message to the San Bernardino County Communications Center came in at 10:45 a.m. Saturday, according to Chris Brookhart, assistant fire chief with the Mt. Baldy Fire Department, an all-volunteer organization.

Wayman and Yvonne hiked back down, hoping to find Lopez. "When we made it back to the Ice House Saddle, we luckily make contact with four other hikers," said Wayman.

The 29-year-old, desperate to find his brother-in-law, asked if they would help search for the injured hiker, and they agreed.

The men fanned out along the snow-covered hillside, yelling Lopez’s name, hoping the father of two would hear and call back.

After about 20 minutes, one of them called out that he had found Lopez.

The 35-year-old Huntington Beach man was battered, bleeding and was in and out of consciousness, but he was alive, Wayman said.

Jason Lopez before falling 1,000 feet
The rescue of Jason Lopez on Jan. 23 after he fell 1,000 feet from a Mt. Baldy hiking trail. Courtesy photo
The men covered Lopez in their jackets and an emergency blanket, then called 911.

Wayman and the men tried to keep Lopez calm, reassuring him help was on the way, but Lopez was becoming increasingly disoriented and sometimes combative.

The Mt. Baldy Fire Department, along with San Bernardino County fire, initially had difficulties locating the men.

While they waited for the helicopter, Wayman borrowed a phone to text his sister, Jackie Lopez—Jason Lopez’s wife—what had happened.

"I got a text from an unknown number close to 1 (p.m.) saying, ‘Jackie this is Robert. Jason had an accident. Hurt pretty bad. Waiting for a helicopter,’" said Jackie Lopez, 34. "I didn’t know what to think. My friend and I had just done that hike the Monday before, and I didn’t know what had happened. All of these thoughts started to come into my head."

Jason Lopez was flown to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton on Sunday and was stabilized enough that on Monday, he was moved to Kaiser Permanente in Anaheim, which is closer to his Orange County home. While now off breathing tube, he is still not responding to commands or talking, Wayman said. A recent MRI shows he did have some injury to his brain.

The young father and husband has a long recovery ahead of him, said Jackie Lopez, but doctors are confident he will bounce back.

Wayman has set up a GoFundMe account to help the Lopezes with medical expenses, but that’s not all.

"Anything we collect after all the necessary expenses are taken care of will be donated to the volunteer-based mountain rescue team for new supplies and additional search and rescue gear to help them in rescuing other injured or lost hikers," said Wayman.

Wayman has kept in contact with the hikers who aided in the rescue and gives them updates on Jason Lopez’s condition. He hopes they will all reunite once Jason Lopez wakes up.

"What do you say to the people who saved your husband’s life?" said Jackie Lopez. "I just want to thank them so much for what they did for him that day."


Copyright © Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Los Angeles Newspaper Group

Daily Bulletin

01/23/16, 4:37 PM PST


Injured Mt. Baldy hiker rescued using ‘Text-to-911’
By Liset Marquez, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

MT. BALDY >> An injured hiker was airlifted out of a popular trail Saturday morning after using new technology to send text messages to 9-1-1 operators.

The initial text message to the San Bernardino County communications center came Saturday at 10:45 a.m., said Chris Brookhart, assistant fire chief with Mt. Baldy Fire Department, an all-volunteer organization.

"By text messaging, the reporting parties were able to establish a connection with 9-1-1,” he said. "It's definitely a helpful technology in the mountains where a connection is a problem."

Mt. Baldy fire department along with San Bernardino County fire responded to the call. Brookhart said he didn’t have details on the injured hiker.

San Bernardino County sheriff’s search and rescue was called out to the trail and initially had difficulties locating the reporting party.

By the time the search team located the injured hiker, the helicopter was running low on fuel and had to go to a High Desert airport to refuel, he said.

The hiker was airlifted and transported to a hospital, Brookhart said.

The new system was implemented by mid-December. It allows hearing and speech-impaired people, or those in a situation too dangerous to talk on the phone with the option to get help by texting.

Officials said the new system helped save the life of a 52-year-old deaf woman who lives alone and was having a heart attack in late December.

Prior to the system launch, Brookhart said he had to use his personal cell phone in December to locate a lost hiker in the Cucamonga Peak area of Mt. Baldy.

"We exchanged text messages back and forth for a better part of an hour," he said. "Utilizing that allowed us to hone in on their location."

Brookhart said the area is a popular hiking trail, but during this time of the year is prone to pockets of ice. He said even the most experienced hikers have been injured if they don’t have the proper gear such as an ice axe or crampons, which are traction devices attached to the soles of boots.

"It gives you the ability to walk on ice," he said. "But if you don’t know how to use this equipment it can be a detriment instead of an advantage."

Brookhart also advises those going hiking to be well-prepared before going for a hike.

"Start the day with a fully charged phone. When you are there make sure to turn off your phone, so it saves the battery power for when you do need it," he said.

Often first responders will get an emergency call, and it'll cut off almost immediately because the hiker's phone has been drained trying to find a cell phone tower connection the entire time.

Without the text messaging option, it's like looking for a needle in a haystack, Brookhart said.


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Los Angeles Newspaper Group