An elderly hiker was rescued early Sunday morning after twisting his knee and spending the night alone on Santa Cruz Island.
Willard Thompson, a 65-year-old Montecito resident, was hiking Saturday on Santa Cruz Island when he twisted his knee and became disoriented, said Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Dept. spokesman Sgt. Erik Raney. Thompson was reported missing after he failed to arrive in time for the 4 p.m. docking of his chartered boat at Ventura Harbor. Raney said the National Park Service summoned the Sheriff’s Dept. Search and Rescue team, which sent 14 rescue workers and two tracking dogs to Santa Cruz Island at approximately 7 p.m. to search for Thompson. Two helicopters from the Coast Guard and the Vandenberg Air Force Base were also dispatched to aid in the search.
Raney said the team found Thompson at 6 a.m. Sunday and transported him to the Santa Barbara Harbor by 12:30 p.m. Thompson spent the night on one of the beaches on the island and was discovered by Search and Rescue personnel, although he said the tracking dogs also had Thompson’s scent.
“All our teams are trained in tracking, and the Search and Rescue team was tracking him through the night and found him just as the sun broke,” he said. “It was more by happenstance than by anything else.”
Raney said Thompson was a skilled hiker who acted intelligently under the circumstances.
“He’s an experienced day hiker and knew to stay in place, and he maintained his location where he twisted his knee and waited the evening out and was attempting to make his way back to the harbor in the first morning light when the Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team spotted him,” he said.
Raney said Thompson is currently with his family and is in good condition.