CoCoSAR’s Mountain Rescue Group organized the February full-team training, a mock search in Mount Diablo State Park. “If it ain't raining; it ain't training,” said Chris Coelho, MRG sergeant, as dark gray storm clouds massed overhead and searchers gathered, bright orange and hooded, at the staging area.
Staging did not stay full for long because the search ramped up very quickly. Teams deployed to scour Mitchell Canyon for two missing subjects. “We put 52 searchers in the field within the first 30 minutes,” said Caroline Thomas-Jacobs, demonstrating an adjustment made by Command Post staff, following the mock night search training, in November 2013.
The first subject to be located, played by team member Natalie Zensius, required extraction by a technical rope rescue team. “I had a unique opportunity to experience what it feels like on the ‘other side’ and be rescued,” she said. “In less-than-stellar conditions, I was quickly warmed and stabilized so that I could be packaged and transported down the mountain.”
Shawn Inks, handling communications for Team 4, located the second subject. “I turned around and saw him,” he said, “but it was kind of lucky. The trail was muddy and treacherous, so we were mostly looking ahead and down.”
Weather was a major factor, hampering radio communications, as well as visibility and trail conditions. “If we had to search Mount Diablo in the rain, this is exactly what it would be like,” said Reza Farasati. “The problems we have today are the problems we’d have to overcome in a real search.”