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Hiker Rescued After Getting Trapped Under 10,000-Pound Boulder for Hours in California Mountains


Inyo County Search & Rescue

CALIFORNIA – (Inyo County Search & Rescue / News Release) – On the afternoon of December 5, the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office was notified that a hiker in the Inyo Mountains was trapped with his legs pinned beneath a boulder. The hiker was located below Santa Rita Flat near Independence. Inyo County Search and Rescue was called out to conduct the rescue. With the help of California Highway patrol Central Division Air Operations helicopter H40, two rescue team members were inserted via helicopter to Santa Rita Flat, while seven other team members followed in vehicles navigating a network for four-wheel drive roads. Several other team members and Sheriff’s coordinators supervised and supported the rescue from the SAR team’s base in Bishop.

The SAR team arrived at the hiker’s location well after dark, finding the hiker in great pain with his left leg pinned beneath a large boulder on a steep hillside. Team members estimated the boulder to weigh between 6,000 and 10,000 pounds. Using a system of ropes, pulleys, and leverage, the SAR team was able to shift the boulder enough to free the hiker, and assess and stabilize his injuries. Due to the seriousness of the hiker’s injuries and the difficulty of the terrain, it was decided to extricate the hiker despite the darkness using a helicopter from US Naval Air Station Lemoore. No suitable helicopter landing zones were near the location, so a US Navy medic rappelled from the helicopter to the scene, and the injured hiker and medic were hoisted into the helicopter and flown to Fresno for treatment after midnight. The SAR team returned to their vehicles and returned to Bishop, signing out at 4AM.

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Challenges encountered on this mission included coordination of multiple agencies and resources; accessing an accident scene in steep, loose rocky terrain; using limited resources to move a large boulder; managing a severely injured patient for several hours while awaiting the helicopter extrication; assisting in a nighttime helicopter hoist; all in chilly December darkness.

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