Rene Compean, a 45-year-old man from Palmdale, California, went missing while hiking in the Angeles National Forest on Monday, April 12. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department told ABC 7 that Compean was found near the Chilao Campgrounds in good health with no need for hospitalization
Compean sent a photo of his location to a friend letting him know he was lost and his phone was going to die. After this, the friend reported Compean was missing at 6:00 PM on Monday, April 12.
A search began, and the hiker’s car was found near the Buckhorn Trailhead along Highway 2. The photo yielded some clues: his legs were very dirty, likely from a wildfire burn area. Luckily, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) used Twitter to assist in their search. A Twitter user alerted authorities they knew the area where the photo was taken and helped confine the search. LASD Sgt. John Gilbert remarked,
“We found one particular Twitter user that we’d seen in the past. He seemed extremely knowledgeable, in regards to mapping and terrain, through lots of his other endeavors. We started looking at the information that he gathered.”
Once the search was confined to a smaller area, the LASD connected with Ben Kuo, a ham-radio operator familiar with the area. The radio operator theorized where the Compean was based on the picture. In combination with cell phone forensics from a cell phone ping, Kuo had a good idea of where Compean was. Kuo gave some coordinates he came up with to Search and Rescue. When Kuo had a good idea of where Compean was, LASD Sgt. John Gilbert commented:
“That particular point that he theorized he could be at happened to overlay within the cellphone terrain data that we had, we figured, we didn’t have any other good leads at that time, so why not check it out?”
With this new information in hand, Search and Rescue teams quickly spotted Compean in a break in the clouds. They found him in good health and hoisted him to safety.
Kuo, the ham radio operator, was thankful he could assist in finding Compean. He remarked:
“I’ve provided information before, but this is the first time that it resulted in somebody being rescued. So, it’s really nice to see that someone’s not stuck on a hillside still tonight.”