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Church group hikers missing in Eaton Canyon reunited with family

Hikers from Huntington Park's Seventh Day Adventist church tell reporters how they got stuck in the Angeles National Forest after dark
Hikers from Huntington Park's Seventh Day Adventist church tell reporters how they got stuck in the Angeles National Forest after dark
Andrea Gardner/ KPCC
Hikers from Huntington Park's Seventh Day Adventist church tell reporters how they got stuck in the Angeles National Forest after dark
A young hiker suffered a minor injury while being rescued by helicopter Monday
Andrea Gardner/ KPCC
Hikers from Huntington Park's Seventh Day Adventist church tell reporters how they got stuck in the Angeles National Forest after dark
Video footage from NBC4 showed rescue workers coming to the aid of a group of hikers who had been missing in Eaton Canyon since Sunday.
NBC4


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Fifteen hikers with a church group missing in Eaton Canyon overnight have reunited with their families.

The young people, who were part of a group from Huntington Park's Seventh Day Adventist Church looked shaken, worn out, and running on adrenaline when they talked about their night in the Angeles National Forest, up above Pasadena.

They came to Eaton Canyon on Sunday for a day of hiking and rappelling waterfalls. Nancy Picado said they were still 2 miles away from the trailhead when the sun set.

"We were wet, we were tired, but we decided that the best thing we could do is just stay there and rest, and we build fire to keep ourselves warm," she said. "We do have some training, so nothing bad happened to us, thank God."

Picado said the group also relied on body heat, huddling together for much of the night. Cell phone service in the area was down to "one bar" she said, but it was enough to call authorities for help, and send text messages to family.

Deputies received 911 calls when the group hadn't returned home by 9:30 p.m., but couldn't rely on helicopters because of poor visibility. Search crews headed out on foot.

"When we were out here, we found two family members who were searching for them who'd received text messages," Jones said. "All they simply said was 'Help'. That had to have put a lump in their throats and made them nervous." 

Deputies sent the family members home and continued their search in the area, which is characterized by rocky terrain and steep canyons.

They were joined by three search crews and two helicopters Monday morning.

Anajancy Armenta said her sister and brother-in-law were part of the group.

"It was heartbreaking to not know what had happened to them, but something that we all have is faith in God and that he has the power to do great things, so we started praying for them and we put our faith in him," Armenta said.

Deputy Johnie Jones told KPCC the group was found just after 9 a.m. by a helicopter search crew. Jones said a medic was lowered to assess the group's medical needs, then they were airlifted out of the area four at a time.

Sheriff's deputies said there were no major medical concerns. One girl suffered a minor injury when wind from the rescue helicopter blew a rock against her leg.

Back in August, the U.S. Forest Service closed part of the trail between the lower and upper waterfalls over safety concerns. Five people have died in Eaton Canyon, and dozens have had to be rescued over the past few years. 

Rescue team member James Moussally said the ground in this area is difficult to traverse because it is decomposed granite, which crumbles easily. Hikers often fall, or must slow down to navigate the terrain.

This story has been updated.

Corrections: An earlier version of this story did not make it clear which agency had closed a part of the trail in Eaton Canyon. It was the U.S. Forest Service. Also, the condition of the hikers has been updated — no one was hurt.