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Missing snowboarder rescued from mountain

February 18, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
A Fullerton man missing since he went snowboarding at the Mountain High resort in Wrightwood was found Wednesday morning unharmed.After being missing for close to 17 hours, a helicopter rescued 23-year-old Brendan Shoemaker from the side of the mountain shortly after sunrise.

"I was pretty freaked out up until when I saw the sun come up, I was real relieved," said Shoemaker. "I started to warm up a little bit and I got out. I figured the helicopters would make another run back over once they could see in the light."

Shoemaker and a friend decided to go off the marked trail on the south side of Mountain High West in the San Gabriel Mountains around 4 p.m. Tuesday. He got lost and then got tired.

When Shoemaker didn't come back his friend notified the Ski Patrol and a search started.

Shoemaker says he dug a snow cave to wait out the night after the lighter he had ran out of fuel.

"I was exhausted and it was just too dark," said Shoemaker. "I tried to make a fire. I built that up and dug a big hole to sleep in."

Brendan's family was concerned for his life as temperatures dropped to around 20 degrees overnight on the side of the mountain.

"It was a horrible feeling, I knew that Brendan is very resourceful and my younger son said 'He's smart and he knows what to do'," said Brendan's mom Jane Shoemaker.

All through the night county fire helicopters searched for Shoemaker from above. He could hear them overhead, but they could not see him.

Shoemaker was spotted shortly after dawn and brought to safety. The area where he was found was very rugged, and he could have easily been injured.

"He's a very lucky young man, it sounds like not only was he dressed for the snow but perhaps had some survival training that he had gone through at some point earlier in his life," said Batt. Chief Joel Harrison from the L.A. County Fire Department. "That and the fact he had a snowboard, which is a real nice digging tool that may have helped him out, he was able to make it through the night."

Shoemaker says he learned a valuable lesson about the dangers of going off the marked trail.

Last year three snowboards got caught in avalanches and died when they went off the trails.

Eyewitness News Reporters John Gregory and Rob McMillan contributed to this report.


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