Santa Barbara County firefighter watches as Air Support helicopter prepares to take the dehydrated hiker to safety.

Santa Barbara County Fire

Santa Barbara County firefighter watches as Air Support helicopter prepares to take the dehydrated hiker to safety.

Helicopter Rescue at Seven Falls

Friday, August 23, 2013
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Just before 1p.m. today Santa Barbara County firefighters and the Search & Rescue Team were called to the Seven Falls area to respond to a 911 call of a hiker in distress. The hiker was spotted from the air by a County Air Support helicopter after those on the ground had difficulty locating him. It appeared he had worked his way out of the canyon bottom and was exploring one of the rock outcroppings above the falls when he became dehydrated and was unable to make his way back down.

The hiker then took shelter in a shaded area and called 911. Once he was spotted by the helicopter, a firefighter paramedic was lowered down to assess his condition and eventually to attach a harness so he could be hoisted up into the helicopter. He was then transported by air to the Santa Barbara airport and from there via ambulance to Cottage Hospital.

Though the operation was over quickly and it appears the hiker is recovering, it highlights a growing problem: search and rescue operations in off-trail locations like Seven Falls and Cathedral Peak are on the rise, as well as other front country trails. A survey of local hiking groups indicates that the trails are becoming ever more popular and that people are frequently heading off the main trail to explore places like Seven Falls, often without giving much thought to what they might be getting themselves into.

The message that the Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue would like to emphasize is that there is no substitute for being as prepared as possible when heading out on the trail. “Having plenty of water and enough food is important,” says Nelson Trichler, long time leader of the County Search and Rescue Team.

“Wearing the proper type of shoes to help prevent leg and ankle injuries is also important,” he adds, “as well as having someone along with you should there be a problem.” Most important may be to learn to develop what trail experts call ‘situational awareness,’ which includes thinking about what might go wrong and what you can do to prevent that from happening.”

While it is tempting to head off the trail to explore a cool looking rock formation or to scramble past the Seven Falls pools to see what’s further up the canyon, it is important to know your limitations. Heat exhaustion can creep up quickly and it is often much hotter up in the hills than it is in town. That is especially the case if you are hiking alone.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

As usual, Ray, you are so right! I love to hike alone, but I am aware of my abilities and limitations. I never exceed them!

fhopson (anonymous profile)
August 24, 2013 at 8:58 a.m. (Suggest removal)

At Edhat, someone says the hiker actually had a compound fracture of the leg:

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
August 24, 2013 at 9:41 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Hopefully, future articles will reveal the typical cost of rescue. Relying on connectedness to ensure a happy ending might cost more than expected. When it's just you and Ma Nature, you walk gingerly with respect, unless you wish to feed wildlife... there's an app for you out there requiring no batteries. When you think the Marines can always save you, you're being optimistic and shouldn't complain if you live to see the bill. Maybe "I Shouldn't Be Alive" will buy your story. Pay close attention to Ma Nature or stay lucky (like me for example, ha ha).

Adonis_Tate (anonymous profile)
August 24, 2013 at 11:16 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm typically well-prepared, but it's true AT that the Mother can slam you anyway, a sudden fall or something unlucky. The buddy rule, just like in SCUBA, is crucial, so I'd ask why he was alone?? Am also interested in costs, and current policies.
the current generation's faith in connectivity and 'the wisdom of crowds' means they grab the cell but forget the water & med stuff & best gear... I wonder if the SARS team could have hiked up to him for assessment, then decide whether to call SARS helicopter or not?? If the compound fracture in the leg report is true, he couldn't have hoofed it out.
In my 60s, I do still backpack alone into the San Raf, but I'm much more careful and conservative, and really don't scramble off the known trail so much. Prudence is a good thing.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 24, 2013 at 2:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The only one I've seen that mentioned cost was posted on Edhat, $45K. I'd rather make a splint and walk out with a broken leg.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
August 25, 2013 at 8:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

@Danny Boy,

Did you not publish a Mea Culpa about starting off without your buddy, getting over your head ,running out of water and having to drink putrid trough water only to meet the SARS team at the end??? I am happy to see that Prudence if not humility is your new mantra.

howgreenwasmyvalley (anonymous profile)
August 26, 2013 at 7:46 a.m. (Suggest removal)

More accidents are "unforseeable" than we expect. Things twist and bounce & shift & snap in ways that surprise us! Savvy drivers soon learn not to assume what the other guy will or will not do. But out in the woods, where there are no idiots around (right?), we assume that Nature will behave as we have come to expect. We know what a solid ledge looks like, until one turns to gravel beneath us, how little water we can lug and still make it to the spring that's dried up, ... etc, etc, etc.

I took a fall recently due to gravity unforeseeably overcoming friction, and my backpack thereupon sliding across my back, just as I released hand grip into a calculated drop of just 1.5 feet onto the tip of a boulder that then caught the middle of my right glute instead of the Vibram. A few inches in any direction would have resulted in fractures. Confidence, meet Ma Nature, defeated only by uncommon luck! Humility tastes awful.

If you're bored already, please move on, as I can't resist another story. I hiked up to the bluff of West Big Pine (those layer cakes you see from East Camino Cielo are WBP & Madulce Mt, if you didn't already know). From the ridge, it's a downhill slope to the edge of the cliff, but I skipped on down unlike a normal hiker, being 3/4 bighorn at the time, in my own estimation. The sandstone strata form a rough staircase down to cliffside, and the heel of my trailing boot caught the rim of the step-before-looloo, and I ended up with toes over the edge, windmilling arms, and invisible, icy daggers poking me everywhere but in the back. My first thought was, "I am not a bird, I belong back there!" Next thought was "Dang, some ppl will want to think I jumped!" But how many ppl's last thoughts are unprintable?

Anyway, let us emulate that simulator of authenticated facts Bear Grills (and support crew), rather than the lucky-so-far, entirely-on-his-own Les Stroud.

If you're aging, like me & Dr Dan, please consider.... That feeling you get when you're leaving the house, that says "Am I forgetting something?" is never wrong. You take a mental inventory, and say, no, I've got everything. But later you discover that you're wrong again, just like every other time! Less often deceitful is the voice that tells you "No, old boy, you're too old to do THAT." Ego steps in and says "Heck, you ain't dead yet!" And then you prove it (so far). But if you can't make it look easy, then what is your body trying to tell you? I want to die with my boots on. But to myself and kindred spirits, I implore us to always remember to ask "Is today the day?" Follow your "half-skinned steer," but only when you're really old enuf.

Adonis_Tate (anonymous profile)
August 26, 2013 at 8:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)

As long as these hikers who have chosen to put themselves at risk pay for their eventual rescues, estimated at $30,000 for a helicopter rescue, they can be as foolish and demanding of S&R services as they choose.

Let them put their credit cards on deposit, before they set out on their back country hikes. Scuba divers have the prudent foresight to carry evacuation insurance policies; so should back country hikers.

When hikers have the foresight to bring cell phones, but no water or use proper equipment and caution it is not society's duty to give them a free ride out of their self-inflicted distress.

Rescue them, but rescue us from having to pay for it.

PS: The edhat "compound fracture" story about this hiker apparently was a calculated hoax.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
August 26, 2013 at 9:49 a.m. (Suggest removal)

How can the trips be $30,000? The new helicopter sight-seeing rides last longer than a rescue, and I am sure they would not have many customers if that were the price. Is this just the private healthcare corporations fleecing the citizens, such as they do with ambulance rides which cost nowhere near what they are charged?

tabatha (anonymous profile)
August 26, 2013 at 8:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)


I've written about this before but have been beaten, berated and accused of being the PIO for SBSO before.

First, helicopter rescues do not cost $30K, Calstar the medivac helicopter in the county is very pricey indeed but they do not "Rescue" people. The are a flying emergency room. The cost of ER's is very expensive as well. Not to mention Obummercare that will hit us in the very near future will drive the cost even higher. Only fools believe the cost will be lowered..

Second, the ambulance bill is high because the county sets the rates. I also bet you didn't know about the hidden tax in the bill either! Fire Dept's in the county in the early 2000's manipulated the Board of Supervisors into placing a "First responder fee" in the bill. Yes, you pay another tax to the fire dept's. You pay property taxes to FD's and if you have to be taken by ambulance to the hospital you pay the Fire Dept. again.... Don't you just love fireman!!! This is how they fleece the taxpayers without you noticing..

Can't wait for the fire lovers to attack me again. The truth hurts and they will attempt to discredit me as the always do. One phone call to AMR will set the record straight. But that will take initiative....

Priceless (anonymous profile)
August 27, 2013 at 8:31 a.m. (Suggest removal)

April 2009: TIME US - RE: Outdoors search and rescue. Who pays?


"The problem is there's no hard and fast rule for what counts as negligence. Going hiking in the early evening and then getting lost in the dark without a flashlight is considered distinct from an accident such as slipping and breaking your leg, says Colonel Martin Garabedian, chief of law enforcement for New Hampshire's Fish & Game Department.

He estimates that rescues cost anywhere from $120 to more than $50,000.

Annually, he oversees about 150 rescue missions, a figure that has remained steady for years. "What has changed is the cost of doing business — training, equipment, paying officers," he explains. Has the legislation made a difference? "We really won't know until two or three years down the road."


Read more:

foofighter (anonymous profile)
August 27, 2013 at 8:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Foofighter - thanks for link.

I have problems with people who climb dangerous mountains such as Mount Hood in the winter and get into trouble. Not only is the rescue difficult and putting the lives of the rescuers at risk, but it is a dumb time to go because of weather at that time of the year.

Maybe there is a an insurance/business opportunity here for someone, so that adventurers can be told - "get insurance, if you run into trouble, call the insurance company and they will do the rescue, otherwise you are on your own". Like car insurance - if you have it you are covered.

However, it is often difficult to tell whether the people in trouble are in that situation because they have made dumb decisions, or it because it is "an act of God", and the people involved have no culpability.

As for Obamacare, there are some places where the costs are going to be reduced a great deal and others not. At least something is being attempted to rein in the costs which are disgusting and the worst in the world. And I don't see how something that was suggested by the capitalist group "The Heritage Foundation", and which introduces competition has been panned so badly by the right. The healthcare system right now does not offer competition, something Libertarians believe in strongly, and the prices are out of control and the restrictions (regulations) are just abominable.

tabatha (anonymous profile)
August 27, 2013 at 9:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Selling sickness and expensive but uncorroborated prevention treatment to the worried-well is the biggest and most expensive health care failing in the US. Obamacare has no cost controls built into the system.

Time will tell whether competition in the market place has an operational model when it comes to health care decisions. Right now when BigPharm and the medical industrial complex rules the market and consumers respond to their calculated and lurid marketing ploys, there is little hope US health costs will be curtailed. The supplement sellers and alternative health care market is just as bad.

How will the consumer make cost-conscious decisions in health care when emotions typically over rule any rational and detached decision making process? The reality is now that the government has so intruded into the health care delivery system, the government will be the one who makes these decisions for us.

Be well, and thrive is the best defense. Don't go hiking without water and proper safety equipment. Carry evacuation insurance when you take on risky activities.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
August 27, 2013 at 9:31 a.m. (Suggest removal)

You think insurance WAS expensive!! You haven't seen anything yet...

There is a reason WHY the unions (Who were all for this piece of sh$t legislation) are ALL against now. There is a reason why Peelosi whose famous words of, "We have to pass it so we can see what's in it" was sooo telling. There is a reason WHY all Federal politicians and their staffers are exempt from it. There is a reason WHY some of the provisions are being postponed another year, etc., etc., etc...

You WANT lower costs? Demand that health insurance be allowed to be purchased across state lines to create competition!!! For some reason it is not allowed.

Obamacare will be a complete failure due to to many being able to get out of it. THEN WHAT DO YOU HAVE?? The same thing we have today, A MESS... Anytime DC gets involved it's a disaster and costs more. PLEASE PROVE ME WRONG.....

Priceless (anonymous profile)
August 27, 2013 at 12:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Prohibition failed because the government turned a blind eye to the blind pigs that sprung up immediately after it was passed, leading to its repeal primarily because the government let so many people get around it.

The problem of alcohol abuse is/was real and has not gone away. Government top down was not the way to solve the problems. So we continue to pay disproportionate amounts of our public services on addicts and are no closer to containing this disease and the havoc it wreaks on 25% of our population.

The failure of prohibition is always wrongly cited as justification for continued alcohol abuse; when in fact it was government abuse and carving out exceptions that allowed this social disease continue to erode our society..

There is a story in this. Government are lousy social engineers by fiat; yet can be an effective bully pulpit for education. Lifestyle diseases are our number one health problem.

Throwing government money on more of the same and calling it Obamacare in fact, solves nothing. It just throws money around and gives the ruling party more cash for their cronies. Obamacare is unhealthy on more levels than the obvious. Time will prove this out.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
August 27, 2013 at 5:34 p.m. (Suggest removal)

If you get the bends while involved in recreational SCUBA, you pay the bill for the decompression chamber, DAN, divers alert network, offers very reasonably priced insurance for such an event but if you don't have it and an accident happens, you pay, 15-25K.

If you are at sea and you have a problem that does not involve the life of someone, the CG will route you to a towing service, if you don't have Towing Insurance, you will pay and it is not cheap and get a maritime lien on your vessel until paid.

Something needs to be done on land about people that go into the front or back country and do not feel the safety rules apply to them.

The nice young lady from TEVA that died, I believe had a heart attack, just two common household aspirin may have saved her life, given the rescue team time to get to her, hiking with dogs does not count for a buddy. I always carry 4 Aspirin and 2 Benadryl, just in case.

I had young friend that died ice diving because he did not believe that the safety rules applied to him, I call it the "Most Interesting Man in the World Syndrome", he left a wife, 2 year-old and a 3 week-old and several SARS divers had to risk their lives to go under the ice and recover his body.

Every time a chopper goes up there is risk. I have a relative that is the EMT on a Life Fight chopper, they had just delivered an injured person, took off and a freak wind hit, chopper crashed killing the two pilots and laying my relative up for 18 months, he is back at it now.

We have way to many rescues around here and way to many basic rules being broken, needs to be a rethink.

howgreenwasmyvalley (anonymous profile)
August 27, 2013 at 7:38 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Personal responsibility some how became politically incorrect in this town. None dare ask if of others. But it is time now to do so. Is reimbursement even discussed with the client in these S&R operations?

If they have a cell phone to call for help, they should have had the foresight to also bring water and recognize if they might be in peril, to have sufficient insurance to cover that eventuality.

Boy Scouts taught young people to Be Prepared and earn your outdoor merit badges including first aid before they became politically incorrect too.

Is there a merit badge now today for taking a cell phone with S&R on speed dial as today's Be Prepared award?

This reminds me of those people who pick up their dog poop in their second use plastic bags, and then toss it in someone else's front yards. They get part of the equation right; then all common sense and even courtesy to others goes out the window.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
August 27, 2013 at 10:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

If you get the bends while involved in recreational SCUBA, you pay the bill for the decompression chamber, DAN, divers alert network, offers very reasonably priced insurance for such an event but if you don't have it and an accident happens, you pay, 15-25K. howgreenwasmyvalley (anonymous profile)
August 27, 2013 at 7:38 p.m.

Of dolphins, and Diver Dan, here is a beautiful tribute song to "Diver Dan", which brought many-a-tear to my eye.

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
August 28, 2013 at 3:45 a.m. (Suggest removal)

hey, great video dolphinpod, thanks for the laugh. HGWMV, I SCUBA dove for 30 years with nary a problem and ALWAYS with a solid buddy. Your pious homilies also show little humility but plenty of "I told you so". Backpacking locally since 1971, I've had one close call so I think I'm pretty reliable, but unlike you, not perfect.
When scrawling "Something needs to be done on land about people that go into the front or back country and do not feel the safety rules apply to them [.]" I do agree, and at my school we call this "immortality syndrome".

DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 28, 2013 at 3:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Danny Boy,

Read what you wrote.

1. Preaching always use the buddy system.

2. But I am the most interesting Man in the World, I don't always backpack/hike/dive Solo but when I do, I am careful and conservative.

What are you teaching, "Do what I say and not what I do."

Bad Teacher!

Ever heard about leading by example?

Conservative and Solo don't belong in the same sentence.

howgreenwasmyvalley (anonymous profile)
August 28, 2013 at 7:33 a.m. (Suggest removal)

But Mom, DrDan on the Independent says,

Its ok to hike Solo, he has a PhD and is a Master Teacher

So it must be true, I will be careful, but Mom DrDan doesn’t wear a bicycle

Helmet, why do I have to – but Mom it’s not fair DrDan is my role model and I want to be just like him.

When my kids started to ride bicycles I wore a bike helmet not because I needed one but because it taught the correct example, I could not require them and exempt myself. Today equestrians wear brain buckets, I never did in the past but today I do for the same reason, not that I think it would prevent a Christopher Reeve, but to support the notion that it might help save someone’s life somewhere and it won’t kill me to do so.

You Dan, have the same responsibility, to teach safety in the sport that you write about?

If you want to be a loaner fine, at least have the professionalism to keep it private and in public, tow the safety line, someone may be looking to you as a role model.

howgreenwasmyvalley (anonymous profile)
August 28, 2013 at 9:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)

uh, "loaner" [sic]! And, I have always worn my bike helmet whether biking alone or around students. Where'd you get the no-helmet baloney? Try to be accurate in your facts, and your spelling, HGWMV

DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 28, 2013 at 9:55 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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