MADERA COUNTY – A Search & Rescue Mission was launched about two hours ago by Sheriff John Anderson to locate a 5-man kayaking crew in the vicinity of Balloon Dome, roughly 17.4 miles northeast of Old Mammoth and 17 miles southwest of Whiskey Falls.
The area is extremely rugged terrain and difficult to reach by foot, and there are no populated places with a 20-mile radius.
The Sheriff’s Office has called on the California Highway Patrol for aerial support. CHP helicopter H-40 is now attempting to locate the group.
It is believed the team started their journey around Devil’s Post Pile. When distress calls were sent out from the group, it showed them to be in the area of Balloon Dome.
Sheriff Anderson says the party was prepared for the adventure, equipped with an emergency messaging device capable of sending out distress signals if the group found themselves in trouble. This system could be a life-saver, because it is nearly impossible to rely on cell service in many parts of the high country and wilderness areas.
The system is available from places like REI, for example. In the event of an emergency, the person in need of assistance punches a button, which automatically sends a distress signal with coordinates via satellite to the company that operates the device.
In turn, the company then sends coordinate information to the appropriate state – the California Office of Emergency Services (OES) in this case – who then contacts the County OES in charge, which in this instance was the Madera County Sheriff’s Office.
When registering the device in preparation for their trip, the party must also provide an emergency contact so that rescue personnel can learn more about the individual in distress. That is how the Madera County Sheriff’s Office learned how many people were involved.
The 5-man kayaking team for which they are searching is comprised of very athletic individuals. At this time, the Search & Rescue team does not know the exact nature of the emergency.