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VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS | WEST COUNTY / OJAI

Helicopters Locate Hikers Lost in Canyon

September 17, 1998|TINA DIRMANN

Four hikers who spent the night in Matilija Canyon after losing their way during an afternoon walk were discovered by a pair of sheriff's helicopters Wednesday morning exhausted but unharmed.

"They were very grateful to be found," said Senior Deputy Frank Underlin, a member of one of the air units that spotted the four hikers just before 10 a.m.

The hikers were identified as Marge Hatton, 68, Sheila Anderson, 66, and Lincoln Anderson, 68, all of Oak View; and 64-year-old Margaret Jump of Ventura.

A friend of Hatton's reported the group missing Tuesday evening after they failed to return from an afternoon hike. Patrol deputies checked Hatton's house and searched the canyon on foot Tuesday night. Deputies in a helicopter used night-vision goggles in the search Tuesday evening, but found nothing. The helicopter was grounded between 3:30 and 9:20 a.m. Wednesday because of heavy fog.

As investigators and patrol deputies began contacting relatives for additional leads, two Sheriff's Department helicopters from Ventura County and one from Santa Barbara, along with the Ojai station search and rescue team, resumed the search Wednesday morning. Hatton and Jump were spotted first near the upper fork of Matilija Creek between Maple and Middle Matilija campgrounds, Ventura County Sheriff's Capt. Bill Boyd said.

The ruggedness of the area forced the helicopter crew to lower down two rescue workers, who strapped Hatton and Jump to body harnesses and lifted them to safety. The hikers then directed rescue workers to an area about half a mile away, where the remaining two hikers, too exhausted to continue, were resting. A second Ventura County helicopter crew landed and airlifted the Andersons to safety.

The four were taken to a command post that had been set up, where each was examined by paramedics. Despite being tired and hungry, the group in good condition, Boyd said.

Describing themselves as avid hikers, the group had chosen what--from a map--looked like a simple afternoon hike. But overgrown brush made it difficult to follow the trail, and the hikers soon were lost.

The hikers, dressed in shorts and short-sleeved shirts, spent the night in a cave, Underlin said. In the morning, they began walking again until the helicopter spotted them.

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