Crews Find Missing Firefighter Dead Near Fillmore
FILLMORE (CBSLA.com) — A search for a firefighter ended Friday when Ventura County crews found Michael Herdman’s body, two weeks after he went missing in the Los Padres National Forest.
» COMPLETE COVERAGE: Search For Michael Herdman
The off-duty firefighter was camping with fellow firefighter and paramedic Taylor Byars the night of June 13 when Herdman’s dog, Duke, ran from the camp site toward Sespe Creek.
The two men went after the dog and at one point decided to split up. Herdman, 36, was barefoot and wearing a shirt and shorts. Byars said that was the last time he saw his friend or the dog.
Byars says he searched the rugged terrain of the Sespe Wilderness for two days before reporting Herdman missing June 15.
A search was launched with crews from several rescue agencies, who scoured the region by air, on foot and with search dogs. Volunteers also joined the effort, which turned up footprints that officials suspected were Herdman’s. Rescuers say they saw Duke on two occasions, but the dog managed to evade capture.
Friends described the Arcadia firefighter as an avid hiker who had experience scaling the jagged terrain near Fillmore, an area so risky that several rescuers were injured in the process. Officials hoped Herdman’s hiking skills would ensure his survival.
But as the search dragged on, officials began to suspect Herdman had been seriously injured.
On Sunday, hikers found Duke. The dog was dehydrated after spending nine days in the intense sun and in high temperatures and was taken to a veterinarian for treatment.
That night officials announced they were scaling back search efforts.
It wasn’t until Friday that rescuers happened upon Herdman’s body in an area 1,200 feet above from his campsite.
During a news conference that afternoon, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said a medical examiner was working to determine the cause of death.
“It did not appear he had been trapped. It appeared he was laying over the terrain, partially covered by brush,” Dean said.
“There’s no indication whatsoever that there was foul play involved,” the sheriff said.