DART Team members assisted the Ventura County Sheriff Department in a search for two missing “At Risk Teenagers”. The teens were reported missing at 1:15 AM Thursday, 04 April. Both teens left letters indicating a threat of suicide which increased the priority of search efforts. The DART Team received request to assist in the search effort at 2:15 AM. Search and Rescue resources were limited as the East County SAR Team was assisting Riverside SAR in the search of two hikers.
Team members responded to the Dover and Hendrix Community Park where search of the park, botanical gardens, and surrounding hillside was conducted based on a scent that was established by a tracking dog. The scent seemed to diminish and was considered to be an older track from a visit prior to the evening.
The team was redeployed to Acorn Acres Community Park and conducted search of the park area and adjacent school and church. An additional search was conducted at Redwood Middle School covering the athletic fields and campus buildings with support of a tracking dog. No evidence of a scent was detected, and the search did not reveal any results.
At this point, based on a scent established by a tracking dog from one of the teen’s home led to the Wildwood Park area. Additional Search and Rescue support was gathered from the East County, Fillmore, and Ojai SAR Teams. An extensive search of the entire Wildwood Park area (1750 acres) as well as adjoining neighborhoods, trails, and flood control channels was conducted throughout the day. Many of the trails required aggressive climbs with marginal footholds. The search focused in attempting to find the missing teenagers, or any evidence of freshly discarded trash or food. The search effort concluded at 4:00 PM as the Sheriff Department concluded that the teens were not in the search area based on this extensive search. Team members had conducted hiking of over 13 hours. Our team Liaison, Tim Lohman, was the Public Information Officer for the search conducting interviews with several television and radio stations. Video and pictures of some of the team members conducting the search were presented in the Ventura County Star and ABC news.
Fortunately the teens were seen by a citizen the following day in a Newbury Park mobile home park. They were reunited safe and unharmed with their parents and interviewed with deputies and counselors at the East County Sheriff Station.