The search for a missing Canadian hiker has been suspended following four days of intensive searching by crews from eight different agencies.
On Jan. 9, 2019, at about 7:50 p.m., Shelter Cove Fire personnel were dispatched by CAL FIRE Fortuna to a call for a solo male hiker with possible back injuries in the Miller Flat area of the Lost Coast Trail. The hiker, identified as 32-year-old Rick Raymond Eastep of Ontario, Canada, sent a text to the reporting party indicating that he had been injured while hiking the trail, possibly near the Miller Flat area. Due to the nature of the incident, it was soon determined that a search and rescue operation for Eastep was necessary. Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched at about 9:30 p.m.
Due to bad weather, high tides and large surf, portions of the coast were impassable the first night of the search. Even with the worsening conditions, rescue crews were able to locate backpacking supplies and a backpack that appeared to have been washed up by the surf. Later it was confirmed that these items belong to Eastep. A United States Coast Guard helicopter arrived in the Spanish Flat area that night and initiated search operations from the air utilizing a “FLIR” camera.
Crews continued an intensive search well into the morning of January 10, only pulling off the beaches when high tide and large swells became a life safety issue for rescuers. Over the next four days, search and rescue crews from eight different agencies utilized helicopters, fixed wing aircraft, ATVs, ocean rescue boats and specialized search and rescue teams, including dog teams, to search over 26 miles of rugged water and coastline, and 16 miles of wilderness trails. During that search, several other items belonging to Eastep were located. No sign or evidence other than the items previously mentioned have been located as of January 12.
It is the decision of the command staff of this incident, which includes the Sheriff’s Office, Shelter Cove Fire and Southern Humboldt Technical Rescue, to suspend the intensive search and rescue operations for Eastep as of 3:30 p.m. on January 12. The search area will be periodically patrolled over the next several weeks for any evidence that could lead us to the conclusion of what has been an exhaustive search and rescue operation on a very rugged coastline in very adverse conditions.
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office would like to recognize the many agencies who helped in this search, including Shelter Cove Fire Rescue, Southern Humboldt Technical Rescue Team, Humboldt County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Posse, Shelter Cove CERT Team, USCG Sector Humboldt Bay, CAL FIRE and Bureau of Land Management.