It took three Madera County Sheriff's Office deputies and five Search & Rescue volunteers nearly six hours to rescue four people Monday night who found themselves stranded in the wilderness after veering off a designated trail while riding their off-highway vehicles.
Nathan Kelly Brown, 37, of North Fork and Jacob Southers, 42, of Clovis, and two juveniles phoned 911 for help at about 5:30 p.m. Feb. 18. They were located at about 8 p.m. and returned to their vehicles after 11 p.m., reported the sheriff's office.
The group (three on dirt bikes and one riding a sport ATV) were found in wilderness off Bass Lake Road (222) and Malum Ridge Road (274) north of Putney Ranch Camp, at an elevation of nearly 3,000 feet.
Considered novice riders, the group apparently found themselves in steep terrain and above their riding skill level.
In an attempt to get out, they blazed their own trail -- what got them further into the mountainous region and more off course.
Detective Larry Rich, who oversees the Department's OHV Unit, said the cell phone used to call 911 was equipped with an enhanced 911 feature, which provided CHP with a GPS coordinate and helped in the effort to find them.
They were found roughly 25 to 50 feet from the GPS-given coordinate, about a mile down a steep ravine. Crews had to hike down the side of the mountain to reach them. The group was admonished for violating Madera County's strict OHV laws. The U.S. Forest Service was also notified of their illegal activity. Only two out of the four vehicles were current on registration.
Riders are encouraged to contact the U.S. Forest Service for complete information about existing and legal OHV riding trails in Madera County. For more information about OVH laws when riding off-highway vehicles in Madera County, log onto www.madera-county.com/index.php/off-highway-vehicle-unit