Los Angeles

Missing Hiker Found After Man Using Computer at Home Pinpoints His Location

The hiker sent a photo to a friend before becoming lost and search-and-rescue teams hope avid hikers can identify the location.

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The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said a missing hiker was found after asking other hikers with experience in the Mount Waterman area of the San Gabriel Mountains to help locate him Tuesday.

The hiker, 46-year-old Rene Compean, sent a photo to a friend before becoming lost and search-and-rescue teams hoped avid hikers could identify the location.

A caller reported Compean missing at 6 p.m. Monday, saying his friend sent a text advising he was lost and his cellphone was dying.

Compean's car was then found near the Buckhorn Campground, roughly 25 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles. It was not known which trail he took from there.

The photo showed the hiker from the knees down, apparently on a precipice with a canyon below and slopes in the distance.

The legs were very dirty, possibly from a wildfire burn area, the department said.

Weather over the mountain range was very cloudy Tuesday as a deep marine layer pushed far in from the ocean.

By late Tuesday, sheriff's headquarters announced the man had been found. But how?

"I've got a very weird hobby, which is, I love taking a look at photos and figuring out where they're taken," said Benjamin Kuo who took on LASD's challenge and responded on social media with his coordinates of where Compean could possibly be.

"This was a good clue and it was worth investigation," said Sgt. John Gilbert with LASD's Crescenta Valley Station. "So that's when we asked our Air Rescue 5 to go and check out that area and see if they saw anything, lo and behold we were able to find him."

The two men met virtually for the first time Tuesday.

"I crazy appreciate what you did...I really don't know if I could make it there another day. It was just so cold," Compean told Kuo.

"From the image in the background below your shoes, I was able to figure out where you were -- pretty close," Kuo replied.

Compean thinks that the reason he got lost was that there was a recent wildfire in the Mount Waterman area, and it burned down some signs forcing him to take a wrong turn.

Coincidentally, Kuo tracks wildfires using satellite images. A hobby that certainly came in handy.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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