Sedona AZ (April 4, 2012) – Late in March 2012, Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office rescue personnel were called to Bell Rock in the Village of Oak Creek, Sedona Arizona, regarding a stranded 38-year-old female hiker. Christine Pae, a visitor from Ohio, had started hiking around 4:00 PM and wandered off the path during her hour long excursion.
Pae was unable to find her way back. Without food or a jacket and only 5 oz. of water, she felt it necessary to call 911 for help just after 5 PM. A crew from the Verde Search and Rescue team was summoned. The crew located and escorted Pae to safety just after 6:30 PM.
Critical factors in the Bell Rock successful search and rescue effort were 1) a working GPS enabled cell phone and 2) a wise decision to remain stationary while awaiting rescue personnel. Luckily the outcome of the Pae incident was positive. Unfortunately, other search and rescue outcomes have resulted in varying degrees of injury, including death.
Two recent incidents in the Sedona red rock scenic area typify hikers who placed themselves in situations far exceeding personal knowledge and ability. In those incidents, both hikers died.
The first 2011 fatal incident occurred on July 7, 2011. A Verde Search and Rescue team started a search operation after being notified of a possible missing person. Upon locating the body of the missing woman, it was deemed likely that she had fallen 50-100 feet off of a ledge on Bell Rock and succumbed to injuries sustained in the fall.
The second hiking fatality occurred in December 2011 when the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office received a call from the mother of a 21-year-old son. The mother indicated that her son was stranded on a ledge near Castle Rock. Rescue crews attempted to locate the young man, but unfortunately attempts to contact him by cell phone were unsuccessful and prolonged the search. Verde Search and Rescue finally located the young man’s body and rescue personnel deemed it likely that he had fallen approximately 150 feet and succumbed to injuries at his point of rest.
It is the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office hope that the occurrence of such incidents be decreased to zero. Knowledge and preparation are the foundational factors that will promote safe and enjoyable hiking experiences in the beautiful wilderness areas of Sedona.
Before planning hiking outings of any kind, the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office asks that you observe the following Hiking Quick Tips:
Never hike alone
Be in good physical condition
Wear appropriate clothing (layers for warmth, bring a jacket, closed-toed shoes)
Be aware of weather conditions and forecasts
Tell someone where you are going (compose and leave an itinerary with a friend or hotel)
Drink and pack plenty of water (recommendation is ½-1 cup (4-8 oz.) of water every 15 minutes during exercise—plan accordingly)
Pay close attention to landmarks and your surroundings
Pack a map and compass
Stay on the trail
Stay Put. If you are lost or injured, or nightfall is upon you, don’t continue hiking.
Pack a first aid kit
Never consume alcohol while hiking near cliffs or ledges
Do not hike out of your level of experience or physical capabilities; know your limits!
For more hiking tips, see the website provided by the U.S. Forest Service – http://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/safety/safety.shtml
Citizens and tourists can contact the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office with information or questions at 928-771-3260 or the YCSO website YCSOAZ.gov.