• The Case of the Battered Bay Area Barrister - 2000
On Saturday September 9, 2000, a 10:00 p.m. SAR callout came for a kayaker overdue on the American River near Pilot Hill. Suz Frenznick was on the team that found him early the next morning. She wrote this account of the search.
The subject was a 38-year-old attorney from San Francisco. He had taken a beating on the river and decided to pull out and hoof it to the Pilot Hill store. He told his friends he was fine (though they said he was working on a definite attitude problem) and that he would meet them at the store. That was 5:30 p.m.. Friends called SO (not sure when), the SO found his kayak, made a search and decided to do a limited call-out for that evening with remainder to come at 6:00 a.m.
When I got to the store around 11:45 p.m., Frank Ali was doing check-in and check-out. The Dolds were already out, also Diane Palmer was out with Cass and dogs. Another OHV team was on the opposite side of the river looking across. A helicopter was up (not H-20; I forget the name, but they were from Sacramento). Marty limited the helo's search heavily because he didn't know how much experience they had in the dark in the river canyons. Also, Marty was concerned about wildcat sightings in the area.
It wasn't long before the Dolds got to the kayak. The dogs found the scent but then lost it. The subject told us later he had come out of the water, walked as close as possible to the water's edge (lots of cliffs in that area, so he must have gone inland at least a some), and found a dirt road.
At 12:30 a.m., Bill Fisher, Bob S. and myself found him on Salmon Falls Road about 10 minutes after we left CP. He had just stopped a couple of kids and asked them for a ride when we drove up. He was pretty scraped up from lots of cross-country travel—probably covered in poison oak. The terrain between the road and the river was ugly with lots of brush, hills and valleys.
It was all over by 1:00 a.m. The guy was very shaken though unhurt. Good thing he was strong and young. He didn't want to share much with us, though we did get him to wipe down with baby-wipes to get some of the poison oak off the skin. He was in a short-legged wet suit, slip-on water shoes with good tread and still had on a life vest (probably for warmth). Marty talked with him only enough to say he shouldn't do any driving.
That's about it. It felt good to find him in one piece. He was thankful to us all. (Note: It appears he truly was grateful—he sent SAR a check for $1,100. Paul Duer)