Missing friend in Mammoth Lakes area

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Cragman

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Oct 29, 2013 - 12:38am PT
Biotch, there never was an "official" search called out, because there was simply not enough information to determine where Matthew had gone. Simple as that.
tdg119

Social climber
Northampton, PA
Oct 30, 2013 - 08:49am PT
What Cragman said.

I'll mention too that Matt was not even reported missing until 7/29. Neither the car repair shop nor the campground reported him missing (despite that they had his car & gear) and though family was worried that he was not returning calls, we didn't want to jump the gun.

By the time the MLPD found out, the campground had already packed up Matt's stuff and put it in storage. Kind of makes for a difficult trail to follow...
pacarockhound

Social climber
Escondido CA
Oct 31, 2013 - 01:34pm PT
I am still confused by this...seems like the given in search and rescue is that a person is missing. By missing, we mean we don't know where he/she is. Don't most searches start where a person was last seen?
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
Oct 31, 2013 - 01:38pm PT
MORE than 600,000 men, women, children are reported missing in the USA each year....
michaeld

Sport climber
Sacramento
Oct 31, 2013 - 02:07pm PT
By the time the MLPD found out, the campground had already packed up Matt's stuff and put it in storage. Kind of makes for a difficult trail to follow...

That sounds like Negligence to me. "Hey a single backpacker is overdue and his gear is here."
LAhiker

Social climber
Los Angeles
Oct 31, 2013 - 03:48pm PT
Pacarockhound said:
I am still confused by this...seems like the given in search and rescue is that a person is missing. By missing, we mean we don't know where he/she is. Don't most searches start where a person was last seen?

Iím sure more knowledgeable people will correct me, but this is how I understand it. I think thereís a difference between not knowing where someone is within a specified area and not having any idea of where they are. If, for instance, we knew that Matt taken the shuttle to Agnew Meadows and had planned to climb Mt. Ritter, then search teams could have been deployed to those routes. Itís a big area and they might not have found him, but they could have tried.

But we have no idea of where Matt went. The missing gear implies that he planned a day hike involving snow, but that doesnít narrow things down very much, given that there are several large objectives involving snow nearby, and more further away if he had gotten a ride.

Regarding starting a search where a person was last seen/detected, I think that depends on the terrain and abilities of the missing person, which determine how likely it is that the person is near where they started out. If a toddler was last seen wandering away from a remote campground, you would start there and work outwards because the toddler would not have had the intention or the ability to go far. When college student Bryce Laspisa crashed the car he was driving on a freeway ramp near Castaic, and then disappeared without taking his wallet or cell phone, a search started nearby because it was assumed he was injured and disoriented.

If, on the other hand, an extremely fit, healthy, and motivated adult is last seen/detected in an area accessible to trails, roads, and public transportation, that creates a problem in terms of search. Mattís cell phone records put him in Mammoth on the 16th, but he could have gone in any direction on the 17th. There was no sign in his gear of struggle or injury that could have limited where he went. As noted above, his gear implied that he planned a day hike to somewhere with snow. So we're back to not knowing nearly enough about where he went to start an official search.

That said, I wish more searching had been done near the campground, and hope to do some myself if I get up there. (The thinking might have been that if Matt had had an accident in such a well-traveled area, someone would have noticed.)

Finally, my hat is off to Cragman, Mattyj, Matt's friends, and others, who despite this troubling lack of info, and sometimes at great risk to themselves, have done unofficial searches for Matt in the back country.
Off White

climber
Tenino, WA
Oct 31, 2013 - 03:55pm PT
Ron, I think missing adults constitute less than a tenth of that total, which of course is still a lot of people.
kenish

Gym climber
Orange County, CA
Oct 31, 2013 - 04:16pm PT
Matt took off solo without informing anyone of his itinerary or timeline. So, nobody realized he was missing and it didn't raise concern at first. By the time friends inquired with the police, almost 2 weeks (IIRC) had passed. At that point, the trail was going cold along with physical evidence and other clues. As it stands today, the timeline is clear up to the evening before his disappearance. The "place last seen" was in town that evening. Family, police in CA and PA, friends, informal searches, etc. have not come up with any substantial clues after that.

From the campground's perspective, they simply had an abandoned campsite. I'm sure it's a regular occurrence which happens for a lot of reasons. True, Matt had paid reliably and wasn't a deadbeat, but they had no reason to conclude "person in trouble in the back country".

SAR couldn't launch a formal search without more information, but would keep an eye out. SAR is a volunteer effort using their own gas, meals, equipment, and time. As dedicated and interested as they are to help, they can't be expected to search a vast area. Even with an educated guess at areas to search, it's still vast and considerable risk is involved. Several with SAR experience have done their own (risky) searches with frustratingly few results.

That's the broad summary (I've been on this thread since it started)...no action was taken in the important initial days because nobody realized Matt was missing.

<edited to add>: +1 to LA Hiker's post above
pacarockhound

Social climber
Escondido CA
Oct 31, 2013 - 04:36pm PT
Thanks LA Hiker and Kenish for the clarification.

I certainly appreciate all the searching that has taken place.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Oct 31, 2013 - 04:54pm PT
Those missing persons stats, like so many, are highly suspect in that agencies
that stand to benefit from increased funding are not likely to correct
those numbers when the person shows up later.
rlf

Trad climber
Josh, CA
Oct 31, 2013 - 06:29pm PT
Those missing persons stats, like so many, are highly suspect in that agencies
that stand to benefit from increased funding are not likely to correct
those numbers when the person shows up later.

I don't think it is really appropriate to introduce this element into this thread. I would suggest that this type of material be brought up in your own thread.

I will not respond to any other posts of this nature. Let's keep this thread on track.
Dan Watson

climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Oct 31, 2013 - 07:05pm PT
I can say categorically that agencies don't get funding for missing persons. They take a lot of time and resources, with no reimbursement.

Mono County SAR is a very professional, committed, and experienced team. They were advised of the circumstances when Matt was first reported missing. They are all volunteers. There is nothing they want to do more than search and find missing persons or rescue those in trouble. But Mono County is 3300 square miles, all of it rural and remote. The possible areas Matt could have gone to encompass several other counties, all with their own SAR teams. Without knowing which trailhead he went to, there is virtually no way to begin a search over such a widespread area. The campground he was staying in is located in the Town of Mammoth Lakes. It is not a remote location with trailheads nearby. Shortly after Matt was reported missing, it it was determined that a possible location would have been in the Ritter or Banner areas, which are outside of Mono County, the SAR team conducted a training exercise in those areas in the hopes they would get fortunate and find clues.

With the lack of information of where Matt may have gone, coupled with the delay in learning he was missing, Mono County SAR should not be criticized for doing enough.
FRUMY

Trad climber
Bishop,CA
Oct 31, 2013 - 07:08pm PT
^^^^^^
rlf

Trad climber
Josh, CA
Oct 31, 2013 - 07:43pm PT
Mono County SAR should not be criticized for doing enough.

Having run a SAR team for the NPS myself, I could not agree enough.
Dan Watson

climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Oct 31, 2013 - 10:44pm PT
Oops, I meant to say that the Mono County SAR should not be criticized for NOT doing enough.

LAhiker

Social climber
Los Angeles
Oct 31, 2013 - 11:04pm PT
Kenish, thanks for your excellent summary. Dan, thanks for your good points re Mono SAR.

Assuming Matt is in some location that can be searched, I think what we need now are (a) more evidence, for instance, regarding his destination, (b) more luck than we've been having, and (c) what may be hardest, the patience to wait until after the snow season...

Riley Wyna

Trad climber
A crack near you
Oct 31, 2013 - 11:04pm PT
. From the campground's perspective, they simply had an abandoned campsite. I'm sure it's a regular occurrence which happens for a lot of reasons. True, Matt had paid reliably and wasn't a deadbeat, but they had no reason to conclude "person in trouble in the back country".

I strongly disagree..
Even the most limited " give a sh#t attitude" would have given some intuitive concern that something negative had occurred.
It would have taken 5 minutes and one phone call.
Ŗ ő ō T « H

Boulder climber
extraordinaire
Oct 31, 2013 - 11:26pm PT
I can say categorically that agencies don't get funding for missing persons.
Mono County SAR is ... all volunteers.
Who had the Blackhawk out there then, some good samaritan that happens to own a helicopter?
Ken M

Mountain climber
Los Angeles, Ca
Nov 1, 2013 - 12:07am PT
Who had the Blackhawk out there then, some good samaritan that happens to own a helicopter?

That almost exactly describes it. That was Sam.
SplitPants

Social climber
LA
Nov 2, 2013 - 09:27am PT
Given the circumstances I think EVERYONE has done a wonderful job in the search for Matt. Hats off to SAR, everyone that went boots on the ground like Cragman (I am sure I am missing some names so my apologies) and everyone on this thread that has poured their heart and soul into finding Matt.

I think this thread should focus on the positive and a strategy for next spring/summer search along with new updated flyers etc.........

I think the collective minds and hearts on this thread have been of much value to Matt's family and friends.

Keep the faith! Matt will be found.
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