Training Exercise Becomes Real-Life Rescue - NBC Southern California
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Training Exercise Becomes Real-Life Rescue



    A team of volunteer rescuers who had traveled to the San Gabriel Mountains for a training exercise were pulled into a real-life search-and-rescue situation when a group of hikers fell off down an ice chute. Kathy Vara reports for the NBC4 News at 4 p.m. on Friday, March 31, 2017. (Published Friday, March 31, 2017)

    It was only a coincidence that a team made up of volunteers from Ventura County chose to do some snow training off the Angeles Crest Highway. At the same time they were doing drills, a group of hikers fell down an ice chute at 7,000 feet in the San Gabriel Mountains.

    On that day, those volunteers became heroes.

    The Ventura County East Valley Rescue Team had traveled from Thousand Oaks to train in the snow when some hikers flagged them down.

    "It was clear from the tone in their voices that there were some fairly injured people," said Greg Brentin, squad leader for the team.

    The Ventura County rescuers were out of their element in the San Gabriel Mountains, but they had come with all their gear and were ready to respond.

    Strapping on their snow spikes, they hiked 30 minutes into the mountains, unsure of what they would find.

    "They are down the side of the mountain and it's like 'Where? How can they be down the side of this?'" rescue team member Michelle Fishman said.

    There was no cell reception, but because they had a satellite phone they were able to call for backup.

    "What we train for throughout the whole year, we put together in one scenario," Brentin said.

    One hiker had a cut on the head. Another had trouble breathing. They needed immediate medical care.

    "This is very serious and there are real people who are going to die if we don’t get to them," said Brentin.

    Though one hiker died from injuries sustained in the fall, the Ventura County volunteers were able to save four lives that day.