Spunky sheriff’s K-9 successfully sniffs out missing senior in Idyllwild

IDYLLWILD — A very special Riverside County Sheriff’s K-9 is being hailed a hero after locating a “critical missing” 80-year-old man who had become lost Thursday, Sept. 13, after wandering away from an Idyllwild campground.

Already missing for seven hours by the time Deputy George Scott and his faithful, four-legged partner K-9 “Copper” were called in to assist, the dynamic duo had a steep task ahead of them, trying to find the lost man in the steep and rugged Idyllwild terrain.

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Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, California Highway Patrol, Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit, and Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department, along with other emergency personnel, responded to the Fern Basin Campground Thursday morning, after learning that an elderly man had been missing since around 9 a.m.

RSO deputies, Cal Fire firefighters, and RMRU volunteers rescue an “at-risk” 80-year-old stroke victim who tumbled 40 feet down a hill after disappearing from an Idyllwild campground. RSO photo

Officials soon learned the missing man had suffered a stroke three years earlier and could not walk well. As the search party was forming, officials also learned the victim did not have any supplies or provisions with him and he had already been missing for about two hours by the time they were called in.

With a CHP aviation crew searching from above and RMRU volunteers, deputies, and firefighters, searching from the ground, officials spent several hours searching before requesting Deputy Scott and K-9 Copper to the scene.

Shortly before 3:30 p.m., K-9 Copper picked up a scent off the missing man’s jacket near the campground’s restrooms. With his nose down to the ground and his tail wagging happily, the hound dog began heading northbound, higher into the hills.

After tracking the victim’s scent through the rugged mountain terrain for about a mile, K-9 Copper eventually sniffed his way right to the missing man, who was found about 40 yards down the side of a hill. Officials later explained the victim had been obscured from other ground and air searchers by dense bushes and heavy trees.

RMRU volunteers, firefighters, and deputies, were soon at the octogenarian’s side and working to rescue him from where he had become stuck after tumbling down the hillside.

Other than suffering from dehydration and confusion, the 80-year-old was uninjured and after being helped off the mountainside and treated by paramedics, he was reunited with his grateful family.

For his outstanding work in finding the missing man, Deputy Scott later took his K-9 companion to their favorite Starbucks, where he was treated to a doggy-delicious “puppuccino.”

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Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 47, recently moved to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle, and Anza Valley Outlook; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 28 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 14 – but soon to be 16 – grandchildren.

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