Fifteen hikers who were lost overnight in the San Gabriel Mountains were found and reunited with their families Monday after being airlifted out of a canyon, authorities said.
The group – four juveniles and 11 adults – were from a Huntington Park church and were trying to scale perilous Eaton Canyon from Henninger Flat when they became lost Sunday night and alerted relatives and authorities that they needed help.
Family members were out near the canyon all night, said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Johnie Jones. Two of them were found on a trail before midnight searching in vain for their loved ones.
But the worrying didn’t last long Monday morning after the hikers were quickly located by helicopters that took to the air at sunrise.
The group of 15 were found on a muddy mountainside in shoes, shorts and T-shirts. Video footage of the hikers being airlifted out, then dropped off at nearby Henninger Flat, showed at least two hikers hobbling with leg or foot injuries.
From there, crews drove them down to the bottom of the Eaton Canyon area, where they were reunited with worried family members.
“They’re relaxed now, as you can imagine,” Jones said. “They’re all very happy.”
Jones credited the group’s decision to stay in one place with aiding in the rescue.
“If you keep moving, it’s almost impossible to find you,” he said.
Three search and rescue teams had combed the Eaton Canyon area on foot overnight, but poor visibility had forced authorities to ground helicopters.
The hikers had been carrying helmets, ropes and other climbing gear to scale the gorge’s rocky face, said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Dan Paige.
But the trip went south Sunday evening, with family members first receiving a text message at 8 p.m. from a hiker who said they were lost and needed help. Then at 9:40 p.m., someone from the group called the sheriff’s department.
By the time authorities arrived, some of the hikers’ family members were already in the forest searching, Paige said.
Earlier this year, Angeles National Forest officials closed an upper portion of Eaton Canyon above the area’s first waterfall after years of hikers falling and becoming seriously injured or dying.
Anyone caught climbing the cliffs above the first waterfall could face jail time and thousands of dollars in fines.