Gardnerville teen safe after ski search at Heavenly
A Gardnerville boy is back home after a six-hour search at Heavenly Ski Resort.
Derek Kalaman, 17, of the Ranchos, was with the Douglas County Ski Club Sunday on a trip to Heavenly. The bus was scheduled to leave at 4:30 p.m., said Douglas County Sheriff’s Sgt. Lance Modispacher. When Derek did not show up, the leaders waited for him until 6:30 p.m. and called the police.
Search and rescue teams from Douglas and El Dorado counties searched the slopes in the dark for hours.
Modispacher said 12 volunteers from Douglas County were called out with a snowmobile and a snow cat.
Meanwhile, Derek later told police, he had waited on the bleachers at the bottom of the Gunbarrel slope for the bus to arrive, but never saw it. When he realized he had missed his ride home, he decided to walk to Stateline.
The boy called home at midnight from Embassy Suites Resort, just over the state line in South Lake Tahoe.
Modispacher said because the search and rescue members are volunteers, the only cost to the county was their time and the use of the vehicles.
“But these people from search and rescue are out there on the goodness of their heart. And by the time they got back and the all equipment was secured, it was 4:30 in the morning,” he said. “We’d rather have a lack of communication than a tragic incident, although it would have been nice if this person would have called. There were 12 (Douglas County) people out there risking their lives to look for him.”
Ski club director Tom Hickey said this is the first time in 43 years that a child has wandered off or left the ski resort, and hasn’t been located within a few hours.
The club this year has a total of 304 participants, and about 250 went on Sunday’s trip.
Hickey said the buses waited for Derek, but after an hour, they started calling parents and friends to see if he had left without permission. Then he notified Heavenly ski patrollers, who immediately began looking.
Hickey said all participants have to listen to a recitation of rules and regulations before the season starts. He said usually children who leave the mountain will be dropped from the program.
“We tell them, this is not a football field, this is thousands of acres they play on,” Hickey said.
He said he and the board have not made a decision about Derek yet.
“I don’t think this was malicious. I know he was very upset when he left the mountain,” Hickey said.
Hickey thanked Heavenly’s ski patrol and personnel, who stayed on the mountain throughout the night. He also thanked DCSO, search and rescue and the El Dorado Sheriff’s Office.