LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Wednesday marked five days since 58-year-old George Null went for a day hike in the Buckhorn, Mount Waterman area and failed to return.
“We didn’t know for days,” Rebecca Latta, Null’s sister, said. “Not knowing is so hard.”READ MORE: Southern California Real Estate Market Cools Off In Fall
But Latta’s anxiety turned to relief and gratitude when the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Air Rescue 5 spotted him deep down in a canyon.
“We were up at the top of the hill and we start coming down and then we hear the bullhorn saying he’s been found,” Latta said. “You have no idea, so relieved.”
The search effort that began Saturday night was finally over after volunteers and authorities spent countless hours scouring the terrain from the air and the ground for signs of Null.
“The area he was located was about 2,500 feet,” LASD Sgt. John Gilbert said. “The mountaintop he came off of in order to get there is at approximately 8,000 feet, so over several days, he’s made a lot of progress downstream.”
During Wednesday’s aerial search in Bear Canyon, the airship spotted Null waving at them near a creek in a very remote and rugged part of the Angeles National Forest. He was soon hoisted into the helicopter where he took a selfie with one of his rescuers.
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“He gave me a huge hug,” Latta said. “I think he’s so exhausted that I really think he doesn’t have a lot of words right now and he’s a little bit delirious after five days of wandering around in the forest.”
Latta said her brother is an Eagle Scout and experienced hiker, but told her he got disoriented in an area where authorities said a lot of the trail markers were burned during the Bobcat fire.
“Since then, the Forestry Service has closed these areas and recommended hikers don’t go in them so that way nature can heal, as well as the trails can be fixed and the signs can be replanted,” Gilbert said.
As for Null, his family said he suffered some scratches and blisters, but is happy to be home.
“I don’t know if he didn’t have a compass or he wasn’t using it I’m not sure,” Latta said. “A really wonderful thing to be able to reunite with him and have that opportunity to see him again.”MORE NEWS: One Killed, Four Injured In El Monte Shooting
Authorities said would-be hikers should check with the Forest Service before they embark to ensure the trails they’re taking are open and in good condition.