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Fire Crews Rescue Men Stranded on Mt. Wilson

Weather: The two are reported in good condition after a two-day ordeal. Ventura authorities save a skier on Mt. Pinos.

February 15, 2001|ELISE GEE and TIMOTHY HUGHES | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Two men were plucked off storm-lashed Mt. Wilson by a county fire helicopter crew Wednesday after being trapped in their snowbound car for two days, authorities said.

Harry Forker, 45, and Gregory Hickey, 38, who relied on their car heater to keep warm, were airlifted to Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena about 5:47 a.m. in good condition, county fire inspector Ed Martinez said.

The men were stranded on a snowy roadside near Angeles Crest Highway and Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road after losing control of their car Monday, Martinez said.

Forker, of Anaheim, and Hickey, of Tujunga, who were unable to leave their vehicle because of whiteout conditions, got the helicopter crew's attention about 5:20 a.m. by flashing their headlights as it flew overhead, Martinez said.

The men were treated for minor dehydration and fatigue, authorities said.

Separately, a lost cross-country skier who spent a chilly night in a makeshift snow cave on Mt. Pinos was lifted to safety Wednesday morning by members of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department air rescue unit.

Constantino Chamis, 25, of Hermosa Beach was cold but unharmed Wednesday after getting caught in a blinding snowstorm on the 9,000-foot peak Tuesday, said Scott Norris, a member of the helicopter crew who rescued him.

Chamis told them he had gone on a cross-country skiing trek but came back late Tuesday afternoon to discover his pickup truck covered in snow and all roads down the mountain buried as well.

"There was no way he was going to get out of there," said Norris, adding that temperatures in the area dipped into the teens and 20s overnight. "When we got there, he was waving. He was pretty happy."

Also on Wednesday, television helicopter crews dropped supplies near three maintenance workers at the Krakta Ridge Ski Resort who had gone without food for about two days.

"They're not in a life-threatening situation; they just need food," said Chuck Ojala, a spokesman for Angeles Crest Resorts, about 15 miles east of Mt. Wilson. "They're locked in by snow because Angeles Crest Highway has been blocked by several avalanches."

The rescue operations followed two days of intense rain and hail storms with winds as high as 75 mph that toppled trees and power lines across the Southland, leaving tens of thousands without electricity.

Among the hardest hit were residents of Rolling Hills, Palos Verdes Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes, said Paul Klein, spokesman for Southern California Edison.

"The outages in those communities ranged from a few seconds to many hours," he said.

Sheree Pickman, her husband, Charles, and their two sons were without electricity for 36 hours in Palos Verdes Estates after their power lines were struck by lightning about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday.

"I have two little children, and I'm in the house all day. It was absolutely freezing," she said. "Luckily, we have our old [gas] stove, and I was able to cook some soup."

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Times staff writer Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson contributed to this story.

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