On the morning of 9/25/2013, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office received a report from a deer hunter that his hunting partner, Gene Penaflor, had gone missing in the early morning hours of 9/24/2013 in the area of Bloody Rock in the Mendocino National Forest.
This area of the Forest was determined to be in Lake County and the case was referred to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and the Lake County Search and Rescue Unit (SAR). By late afternoon the Lake County Sheriff’s Office had located the hunters camp and found it was well inside the County of Mendocino, so the case was transferred back to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office. The Lake County SAR Unit continued to assist with the search that was conducted throughout the night and into the following morning but Gene was not located.
On 9/26/2013 the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office called for Mutual Aid resources from allied SAR units as the search continued over the next three days. The Search and Rescue teams developed a missing persons profile with the assistance from the hunting partner and members of the Penaflor family to assist in the search. The search area, ranging from 5000 to 6200 feet above sea level, was covered extensively but Gene was not located. The search was suspended due to no clues beign found to suggest the whereabouts of Gene and due to a significant incoming storm. Members of the following agenices assisted with the search in the first four days: Lake County SAR, Marin County SAR, Sonoma County SAR, Tehama County SAR, Glenn County SAR, Siskiyou County SAR, Salano County SAR, Monterey County SAR, Contra Costa County SAR, San Mateo County SAR, Sutter County SAR, Bay Area Mountian Rescue Unit (BAMRU), California Explorer Search and Rescue (Cal ESAR), California Rescue Dog Associ!
ation (CARDA), CHP Air Operations Redding Unit, United States Forest Service Law Enforcement Officers, and the California Office of Emergency Services Law Enforcement Division.
The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office reactivated the search on 10/12/2013 and again called for Mutual Aid resources. The following agencies responded to assist: Marin County SAR, Lake County SAR, Bay Area Mountain Rescue Unit, California Rescue Dog Association, Monterey County SAR, and US Forest Service Law Enforcement. Around 8:30 AM the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Dispatch received a call from a hunter in the area of where the search was being conducted. This caller reported he was with a large group of hunters and someone from his group could hear someone calling for help in the bottom of a canyon nearby. He said members of his party were trying to locate the person. Due to poor cellular telephone service the call was lost numerous times and his exact location was not known. The caller was instructed to dial 911 and the GPS coordinates were obtained for his postion. SAR units were then dispatched to his location.
The hunter later called to say that his hunting group had located the person calling for help, determined it was Gene Penaflor, and were rendering aid to him. The group of hunters then rigged a makeshift stretcher from their coats and several poles they cut in the area. They then started to carry Gene up the steep hillside towards recue teams decending to the location. It took several hours for the rescue units to make it to the hunters due to the difficult terrain. Gene was then evaluated medically and it was determined he should be extracted via helicopter. SAR units located a suitable landing zone and Cal Star 4 Air Ambulance was called to extricate Gene to the Ukiah Valley Medical Center for medical treatment.
Gene was located approximately 3.25 miles from the point where he was last seen by his hunting partner. He spent a total of 19 days lost in the Yuki Wilderness area. During this time it snowed numerous times, temperatures ranged between 25 and 70 degrees at times. He was later interviewed at the hospital where he said he travelled further away from the road than he had planned on his hunting excursion. At one point on the first day he fell and hit his head, rendering him unconscious for an undetermined amount of time. When he awoke he was disoriented and a thick bank of fog had enveloped him. He walked for a time but eventually stopped as he did not know where he was at. He was able to make a fire and warm himself with leaves and grasses that he packed around his body. On days when it rained or snowed he was able to crawl under a large log to stay dry. He was able to kill and eat several squirrels in the area and there was plenty of water in a nearby drainage to sustain himself.
The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the group of hunters who suspended their efforts to hunt and go above and beyond in trying to locate the person calling for help. Their quick thinking to notify rescue teams and seek assistance while also rendering aid to Gene was critical to his being rescued and returned alive to his family. We would also like to thank all the volunteer SAR members from so many agencies who responded to assist in this case.