Independence, California – December 12, 2023
In a harrowing ordeal in California’s Inyo Mountains, a hiker endured a grueling seven hours with his legs trapped under an estimated 10,000-pound boulder until a remarkable rescue operation unfolded. The incident, which transpired on Dec. 5 near Independence, involved the tireless efforts of Inyo County Search and Rescue, a dedicated volunteer organization.
The rescue mission commenced after the local sheriff’s office received notification of the trapped hiker, prompting Inyo County Search and Rescue to swiftly mobilize. Assisted by a “California Highway Patrol helicopter and the sheriff’s office,” rescuers reached the hiker below the Santa Rita Flat under the cover of darkness, discovering him in significant pain.
The hiker’s left leg was wedged beneath a large boulder on a steep hillside, estimated to weigh between 6,000 and 10,000 pounds, as reported by authorities. Employing a strategic approach involving ropes, pulleys, and leverage, rescuers meticulously shifted the massive boulder to free the trapped individual.
Given the severity of the hiker’s injuries and the challenging terrain, the decision was made to carry out the extraction despite the darkness, utilizing a helicopter from the US Naval Air Station Lemoore. However, the absence of suitable helicopter landing zones near the rescue site presented a unique challenge.
In a daring maneuver, a U.S. Navy medic descended from the helicopter via rappelling to the scene, successfully extricating the injured hiker. Following the midnight rescue, the hiker was swiftly airlifted to Fresno for urgent medical treatment. As of now, the identity of the hiker and his current condition remain undisclosed.
The mission posed considerable challenges for Inyo County Search and Rescue, navigating loose rocky terrain with limited resources to maneuver the colossal boulder. The rescuers had the added responsibility of managing the hiker’s well-being during the prolonged wait for the helicopter in the chilly December darkness.
The exhaustive rescue operation concluded with the search and rescue team returning to its base in Bishop in the early hours, officially signing out at 4 a.m. local time. The successful extraction stands as a testament to the dedication and proficiency of the Inyo County Search and Rescue, showcasing the unwavering commitment to saving lives in the face of challenging circumstances.