Two volunteer search-and-rescue members were robbed at gunpoint while attempting to help a seriously dehydrated hiker Saturday on the Pacific Crest Trail, roughly 85 miles north of Los Angeles, per the Associated Press.
Charles Brandenburg, a 55-year-old hiking enthusiast from Mendocino, California, started suffering from dehydration Friday as temperatures in the remote Piute Mountains of Central California soared to around 110 degrees. Dry heaving and cramping, he took rest until early Saturday morning, according to the AP.
“I needed water really bad,” Brandenburg told the AP. “I undercut it. It was a mistake on my part.”
At around 4 a.m. Saturday, Brandenburg hiked a couple of miles before activating a rescue device that allowed him to send text messages to authorities, reported the AP. Subsequently, four volunteers from Kern County Search and Rescue set out on foot to bring Brandenburg water, but got lost. One pair of rescuers turned down the wrong trail and found themselves face to face with two gunmen armed with rifles. The armed robbers stole the rescuers’ radios, and then told the rescuers to return in the direction from which they came. The gunmen followed behind the rescuers for a bit before running off.
The AP reports that Brandenburg was texted by rescuers about the robbery and told to sit tight. Brandenburg says he wasn’t sure they were being serious until a SWAT officer was being lowered to him via air rescue.
“Then we knew it was real,” Brandenburg told the AP. “It was really a trip. It was like a movie.”
The armed robbery turned what should have been a relatively quick ordeal into a 12-hour rescue and forced officials to close down a portion of the PCT so that deputies and SWAT team members could search for the robbers, per Fox News. It was reopened Monday night, and Fox News reports that it isn’t clear if the suspects have been found.
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