Crews search for missing Waterloo hiker in California
Rick Eastep, 32, sent a text to the local sheriff ’s office on Monday telling them he was injured
WATERLOO — For almost four days search and rescue crews scoured the rugged coastal mountain area in northern California looking for Rick Eastep of Waterloo.
The 32-year-old man went missing while hiking alone on the Lost Coast Trail last week.
On Saturday, the extensive ground, air and water search was called off.
“We will still be looking along the beaches but it will be a less aggressive approach,” Shelter Cove Fire Chief Nick Pape said Sunday in an interview.
“We definitely exhausted the extent of our resources” in searching for Eastep, he said.
Officials said they found no evidence to indicate what happened to Eastep but believe the high tides and large surf may have contributed to him going missing.
Emergency personnel were dispatched out to the 48-kilometre stretch of remote coastal trails to search for Eastep on Wednesday night after he sent a text to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office telling them he was injured.
Search crews were told he may have hurt his back in the area of Miller Flat.
It appears Eastep sent the text on Monday but officials didn’t receive it until Wednesday because of poor cellphone reception.
During the first night of the search, some areas were impassable because of high tides, winds and rain but crews found a backpack that had been washed up by the surf.
Volunteer crews also found Eastep’s hiking permit which had the date of Jan. 3 issued on it.
Cheryl Antony, a volunteer firefighter with Shelter Cove Fire, said about 30 people searched the area by helicopter, ATV, rescue boats and walking the ground.
A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter with specialized thermal imaging infrared cameras also searched the area.
They scoured the 48 kilometres of rugged water coastline and 26 kilometres of isolated wilderness trails.
“It’s very rugged,” she said. “It’s absolutely beautiful but it can be really scary.”
Much of the trail is on the beach and disappears at high tide.
“The weather is very challenging,” she said. “It’s not for the faint of heart.”
Antony said the car that Eastep drove was the sole car in the parking lot in Shelter Cove.
Antony said there were high wave warnings and Eastep would have received the tide tables from area guides.
Antony said volunteers covered some areas three times in an attempt to find clues to Eastep’s disappearance and often came back “sopping” wet.
Nick Manning of the University of Waterloo said Eastep is employed at the university working as a presentation technology specialist in the information systems and technology department.
Rick Eastep, 32, went missing while hiking alone on the Lost Coast Trail last week.