On Sunday, January 1, 2012, at approximately 9:30PM, Inyo County Sheriff’s Office received notification of an overdue hiker. The reporting party advised that her 73 year-old husband George Derrick had planned a short hike east of the CARMA Observatory, in the Cedar Flat area, but failed to return home. Derrick left his Big Pine residence at about 11:30AM and was only expected to be gone no more than four to five hours.
Inyo County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Assistant Coordinator, Deputy Winkler, responded to the area and located Derrick’s unoccupied vehicle parked along Thunder and Lightning Ridge. After a quick search, four Inyo County Search and Rescue (SAR) volunteers were dispatched to begin searching for Derrick. Researchers at the CARMA Observatory greatly assisted by allowing their facility to be utilized as the Command Post for the SAR operation.
On January 2, 2012, a mutual-aid request was made to the office of California Emergency Management Agency for additional resources; three China Lake Mountain Rescue Group (CLMRG) volunteers responded, as well as additional volunteers from Inyo County SAR. California Highway Patrol (CHP), out of Fresno, provided helicopter H-40 and crew to assist aerial reconnaissance for the mission.
By mid-morning on January 2nd CLMRG volunteers located tracks leading off Thunder and Lightning Ridge in a northern direction. With the direction of travel provided by the ground searchers; CHP H-80 was able to locate a black backpack lying outside a cave within Deep Springs Valley. Rescue personnel responded to the location and found Derrick approximately 40-feet down in a vertical cave. Derrick advised that he was uninjured but was unable to ascend his rappel rope tied off to an anchor outside of the cave. Derrick was extricated from the cave with the assistance of SAR members.
Using a hoist, CHP helicopter H-40, raised Derrick into the aircraft where he was transported to the CARMA Observatory. Derrick refused any further medical attention and was reunited with family.