News Story


Piru Creek near Hardluck Campground, Los Padres National Forest/ Rescue of Lost Hunters
11/28/2011 8:32:00 AM


Nature of Incident:

Rescue of Lost Hunters

Report Number:



Piru Creek near Hardluck Campground, Los Padres National Forest

Date & Time:

11/26/2011 @ 10:00 PM

Unit Responsible:

Sheriff's Aviation Unit

(S)uspects, (V)ictims, (W)itnesses (D)ecedent

City of Residence


Leonard Unger

Juvenile - Male

Los Angeles

Los Angeles




On November 26, 2011, at approximately 10:00 PM, a helicopter was requested for two hunters who were lost and stranded on a rock out cropping in Piru Creek near Hardluck Campground in the Los Padres National Forest.  Initial information received from the hunters whom had limited cellular service stated they were unable to move off a sheer cliff about one and one half miles south of the Hardluck Campground. 


Ventura County Sheriff Lockwood Valley Deputies were staged at the campground but were unsuccessful in locating the hunters due to the remote location and darkness.  The Sheriff's Department helicopter, piloted by Jim Dalton, responded with a rescue crew consisting of Crew Chief Don White and Crew Chief/Paramedic Jeff Golden.  Upon arrival to the area, an aerial search was initiated with the assistance of night vision goggles worn by the aircrew. 


After about forty-five minutes into the search, the hunters regained cellular service and were able to contact Sheriff's Dispatch.  Utilizing a satellite telephone in the helicopter, a conference call was initiated between the helicopter, dispatch and hunters.  The hunters were advised to hold the face of their cell phone in the direction of the helicopter, which they could hear but not see.  With the assistance of night vision goggles the rescue crew observed the light from the cell phone face within several minutes after the request was made.  The hunters were discovered clinging to a steep canyon wall south of the campground.


Due to the remote location and rugged terrain, the only option to contact and evaluate the hunters was through a hoist operation.  Crew Chief Golden was lowered via hoist approximately one hundred feet into the canyon.  Once on the ground, Golden determined both men were uninjured.   The hunters were safely removed from the location via a hoist rescue and flown to awaiting deputies at the Hardluck Campground.


It was later learned that the hunters were prepared for their trip by having proper clothing, water, flashlights, GPS and a cell phone.  However once it became dark, the hunters were disorientated and quickly lost track of the trail.  Both then fell down the steep canyon and became separated from their flashlights, GPS and other equipment. 


The Sheriff's Aviation Unit would like to let others know that should they find themselves in a remote location after dark, the illumination of a cell phone face or other light source can greatly assist rescue crews in the search when night vision goggles are being utilized.



Deputy Preparing Media Release:

Senior Deputy Don White

Media Release Date:


Follow-Up Contact:

Senior Deputy Don White


Approved by:

Capt. Ross Bonfiglio