Teenaged hunter dies in sudden winter storm
October 24, 2012
A sudden winter storm contributed to the death of a 14-year-old hunter and hampered search efforts Monday and Tuesday
Devon Smith, 40, and his nephew, Taylor Brent Dustin, 14, were reported overdue in a 911 call 5:30 p.m. Sunday.
Undersheriff Robert Levy said the hunters were camping in the Hermit Valley area west of Ebbetts Pass.
Searchers hunted through Sunday night before they were slammed by the winter storm, which left up to 18 inches in the high Sierra.
“It was really tough conditions,” he said. “At times it was snowing so hard, it was really hampering search efforts.”
Levy said that as many as 85 searchers looked on both sides of the Sierra crest as snow fell through the day on Monday.
“This was an unseasonably big storm,” Levy said. “Usually they start slow, but this one dumped.”
Levy said he had Caltrans open Highway 4 over the pass so he could speak with the west slope incident commander.
“They had to use a road grader to get through,” he said.
When searchers found Smith at about 3 p.m. Tuesday, he was suffering from severe hypothermia and was taken by air ambulance for treatment.
“He told us that the 14-year-old had passed on Monday night,” Levy said. “He just couldn’t keep him warm.”
Searchers recovered the boy’s body at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The cause of his death is under investigation.
Both men were found near Steve Nott Camp in the Mokelumne Wilderness between the Eldorado and Stanislaus national forests.
Levy thanked units from several surrounding counties, including Douglas and Washoe, who sent the Raven helicopter to help look for the hunters.
Alpine personnel had just come off another search for a missing hunter on Saturday night. The hunter walked out of the mountains on Sunday morning.
Levy said searchers were back at work on Wednesday after the county received a 911 hang-up that tracked back to the Leviathan Mine area.