NORTH FORK – It took three sheriff’s deputies and five Search & Rescue volunteers nearly six hours to rescue four people who found themselves stranded in unfamiliar terrain after veering off a designated trail while riding their Off Highway Vehicles (OHV).
Nathan Kelly Brown, 37, of North Fork and Jacob Southers, 42, of Clovis, and two juveniles phoned 911 for help at around 5:30 p.m. on Monday Feb. 18.The group, three on dirt bikes and one riding a sport All Terrain Vehicle, were riding in a rugged area off Roads 222 and 274 – north of Putney Ranch Camp – at an elevation of about 3,000 feet.
Considered novice riders, the group apparently found themselves in steep terrain and above their riding skill level, says the Sheriff’s Office.
In an attempt to get out, they did a bit of bushwhacking and tried to blazing their own trail. That only got them further into the mountainous region and way off course.
As dusk began to settle in, they realized they were lost and called 911. Search crews sounded sirens, asking the group to let them know through their cell phones if they could hear them.
According to Detective Larry Rich who oversees the Madera County Sheriff’s Department’s OHV Unit, the group had a cell phone equipped with an enhanced 911 feature, which provided CHP with a GPS coordinate and helped in the effort to find them. In fact, they were located some 25 to 50 feet from the given GPS coordinate.
The group was found at around 8 p.m. but reaching them and getting them out would prove challenging.
They were found about a mile down a steep ravine, and crews had to hike down the side of the mountain in the dark to reach them. One of the riders apparently had a bad knee, so Detective Rich and fellow rescuers walked the group about a mile-and-a-half on a less taxing trail to get them out. They got back to their vehicles just after 11 p.m.
The group was admonished for violating Madera County’s strict OHV laws, and the U.S. Forest Service was notified of their illegal activity. Only two of the four vehicles had a current registration.
Riders are encouraged to contact the Forest Service for complete information about existing and legal OHV riding trails in Madera County.
For more information about OHV laws when riding Off-Highway Vehicles in Madera County, log onto: http://www.madera-county.com/index.php/off-highway-vehicle-unit
Staring March 5, the Sheriff’s 2013 OHV grant request will be available for review and comment.
Those who wish to participate in the Grant Request Public Review and Comment may do so by either contacting Susan Noel at firstname.lastname@example.org or logging onto the division website at http://ohv.parks.ca.gov
Public review will be open between Mar. 5 and Apr. 1, 2013.