Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Ontario, Calif.
Brenda Wallace had been traveling up to the Mt. Baldy Fire Station all week, hoping that she and her daughter, who had missing since Saturday in the mountains, soon would be reunited.
Late Wednesday night, a relieved Wallace finally got her wish. Search crews found her daughter — Gabrielle Wallace, 31, of Rancho Cucamonga — and Eric Desplinter, 33, of Chino Hills in a valley near Cucamonga Peak and airlifted them to safety.
The pair appeared to be in good shape despite their ordeal.
“I was getting really worried. This had gone on too long,” Brenda Wallace said. “I hope she never goes back up that mountain again.”
Eric Desplinter 33, of Chino Hills and Gabrielle Wallace, 31, resident of Rancho Cucamonga went hiking in the Mt. Baldy area on April 6, 2019 and did not return. Search and rescue teams have been looking for the pair since the weekend. (Courtesy photo San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department)
Five teams had been deployed during the day to look for the pair. Several teams were also on the lookout during the night, and had planned on staying overnight in areas surrounding Mt. Baldy.
As Wednesday evening wore on, a search team in Cucamonga Canyon found two sets of footprints and began following them, officials said.
The search team alerted the command post and provided coordinates for a sheriff’s helicopter to fly over the area.
“The aviation crew spotted a camp fire and could see two subjects and believed they were the two missing hikers, Eric Desplinter and Gabrielle Wallace. The crew is preparing for a hoist rescue and will hoist them out one at a time. It is confirmed these were the two hikers that had been lost for nearly five days,” the Sheriff’s Department said in a statement at 9:54 p.m.
That search team was an air rescue crew that consisted of four people, according to the Sheriff’s Department – Pilot Corporal Jon Anderson, Chew Chiefs Sgt. Dan Futscher, Deputy Greg Ditfurth and Hoist Rider Deputy Cody Korkotsakis.
“The hikers were stuck in between two waterfalls about 20-to-25-feet high on each side,” the Sheriff’s Department said on Twitter. “The helicopter’s rotor blades and tail rotor were about 10 feet away from the trees and rocks. A great job to ALL ground and aircrews for their dedication.”
“Thank God she won’t be on the mountain tonight,” Brenda Wallace said
Her daughter and Desplinter arrived at the station at 11:36 p.m. They were escorted by law enforcement and fire officials to the back of the Mt. Baldy Fire Station whilst wrapped in blankets.
The primary areas search crews had been focused are Cucamonga Peak, Cucamonga Canyon and Kelly Camp, the Sheriff’s Department said.
Desplinter and Gabrielle Wallace were given food and water after arriving at the fire station, and given an opportunity to get off their feet, rest and talk to their parents before being reunited with their full families.
The tall and bearded Desplinter spoke briefly with reporters shortly after leaving the fire station and before leaving with family. Despite being lost for several days, he appeared to be in high spirits.
“Quite a crowd,” Desplinter said to laughs.
“We’re both perfectly fine, no serious injuries,” he said. “Thank you to all the volunteers that helped look for us. We are very grateful to be found tonight. I’m ready to get to bed and get to rest.”
Desplinter said he and Wallace survived through rationing their food and drinking water through a LifeStraw, a survival tool for drinking water in emergency and survival situations.
On how they got initially lost, Desplinter said they just lost the trail.
“We had a little bit of a slip going up to the peak of Cucamonga Peak,” Desplinter said. “We decided we wouldn’t go back up the ice and snow, so we tried to descend through a valley, and that valley was much more treacherous than we thought.”
While Desplinter spoke to media, Wallace was escorted out the back of the fire station and left with family.
©2019 the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, Calif.)
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