24-year-old man overdue

December 17, 2000
Dark Canyon

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By Gene Baune

Map of SearchAt 8:45pm RMRU was called out to search for 24 year old Federico Chaves Jr. who was reported missing by his friend Jason Vega. The pair had hiked Marion Mountain Trail to San Jacinto Peak starting out at 8:30 am, reaching the peak at about 3:00 pm. Wanting to hike at different speeds, Jason and Fred separated near Little Round Valley. Jason reached their vehicle at about 5:30pm but Fred was nowhere to be found. Jason honked the horn of the vehicle and yelled for his friend but no response. Finding a pay phone, Jasoin tried to call Fred's cell phone but there got no response. Jason then contacted authorities who alerted RMRU.

Jason Vega provides details to searchers who are looking for his missing freind Federico Chaves. (photo by Darrell Bell)The first search team from RMRU started up the Marion Mountain Trail by 10:00 pm and the second team was dispatched to the Seven Pines Trail around 11:00. Teams searched throughout the night on the steep and icy trails. Due to the urgency of the situation, Desert Sheriff Search and Rescue (DSSAR) from Palm Desert was contacted for additional personnel and a helicopter was scheduled for 7:30am.

Shortly after 4:00 am a mixed RMRU/DSSAR Team started up the Deer Springs Trail with an RMRU Team heading down. A second DSSAR member was held in reserve to act as an aerial observer when the helicopter arrived but was used as a radio relay instead.

At 7:12 am RMRU Team 1 established voice contact with Fred and within a few minutes made physical contact with him in a ravine approximately mile off the trail.

Reaching the Marion Mountain Trail and Pacific Crest/Deer Springs Trail intersection, Fred had made a common mistake and turned south instead of continuing west on the Marion Mountain Trail. Not realizing his mistake he continued several miles down Deer Springs Trail until losing the trail.

Desert Search and Rescue are briefed and given assignements. (photo by Darrell Bell)Fred then decided to go straight down the mountain and "headed for the lights" of Hemet, after falling several times he wisely decided to stop for the night. Fred had a lighter and lit a fire to melt snow and for warmth. He was reasonably warm, dressed in a fleece jacket and long pants.

RMRU Members responding: Darrell Bell (support), Mona Landfield, Travis Henderson, Lee Arnson, Kurt Sullivan, Gene Baune, and Mike Wimbrow (operations leader)

DSSAR members responding: Sharon Ollenburger and Barbara Miller

Riverside Sheriff's Department: Deputy Lutz

American Red Cross volunteers provided hot coffee and food

Searchers from RMRU and DSSAR gather around Fred (second from left) along with Deputy Lutz. (photo by Gene Baune)