Three People, Two Dogs Stranded at Shelter Cove

[UPDATE 2:00 P.M.: The rescue is complete! (Although two of the rescuers have yet to make their way back down.) The three people as well as dogs are happy and healthy.

The three young people–Pierce Shippam, Timothy Phillips, and Whitney Hackett from Redway–started out on a hike that ended with a complicated rescue.

According to Whitney Hackett, the whole undertaking was

…a spiritual experience, beautiful and terrifying at the same time. We hiked from our friend’s property down a creek.  We got to the ocean and our adrenaline was pumping.  [Then we realized] we were stuck on the other side of [No Pass Point.] The tide was coming in…We decided to climb over.

They reached a point where they could see the other side and realized it was even more dangerous on that side than on the first side.

We decided ongoing on a hike and it turned into a lot more of an adventure.  We were trying to climb over the cliffs and the sun was going down… We decided that we couldn’t see where we were going and needed to call…pretty much at sunset.

They called 911 and were transferred to Shelter Cove Fire Department.

We thought maybe something would happen that night but it couldn’t….We decided to camp the night out. We made a fire with some grass… We had some snacks but no water.  I wasn’t so scared in the night….We were in a safeish spot…. behind a big clump of pampas grass.[The spot] was kind of slanted and a little bit wet. We made a bed with a bunch of grass. It seemed like the safest spot even though it was slanted. Buddy (a blue heeler) and Bruce Lee (an Australian Shepherd mix)…were really amazing. They helped keep us warm.

They decided to conserve their cell phone and not call family and friends so no one has been concerned about their plight. Hackett said, “We hadn’t talked to anybody yet.”

Hackett described the rescue:

Definitely, it was a long wait but it was definitely the right decision.  I feel really well taken care of and safe… The boys each had a dog in their arms. We were tucked into a harness on a pulley system going down…   I just tried not to look down.

Everyone, the dogs included, was relieved to be down from the ledge. As dogs barked happily in the background, Hackett said,

They’re really happy.  We’re all happy. It all worked out for the best…Just really sore bodies and some scraps.  I’m really really inspired by the fire dept. It was an awakening experience to see what they had going on.  I feel really good about [them.]

UPDATE 1:02 P.M.: The first victim and dog have reached the beach!

UPDATE 11:45 A.M.: “One of the rescuers has reached the victims,” Diana Totten just called in by phone from Dead Man’s Gulch to announce. “They are going to bring one at a time from where they are all the way down to the beach….It is such a technical and complicated rescue,” she went on to explain.  “We have 4 ropes. We need to have safety for everything we do.  Ropes to pull up.  Ropes to bring down. This is taking a huge amount equipment”

She’s grateful that Southern Humboldt Technical Rescue team and Shelter Cove Fire have gotten alot of grants and raised a lot of money from fundraisers.  “We are dealing with equipment bought with money from Humboldt Co. Office of Emergency Services.  [The crew has] the best equipment and has spent a lot of years  training… As I sit here, it looks like the navy seals are here.  We have 18 people that are doing the rescue here.”

At this point, Totten isn’t willing to divulge the plan to bring the victims down. “This is a very fluid rescue,” she says. “Things can be changed. We’re probably dealing with people who have never repelled before. There are a lot of rocks falling and a high chance of injuries.  We’ve ordered a trauma bag to be ready. There are rocks the size of basketballs.  If something falls on someone, we want to be able to treat ’em and evacuate as soon as possible.”

UPDATE 10:25 A.M.: Diana Totten former rescue worker who is on the scene at Dead Man’s Gulch described a terrifying rescue attempt being set up by the well respected Southern Humboldt Technical Rescue team (SHTR) and Shelter Cove Fire crew.  “The risk level is extreme,” she explained.

The all volunteer crews (no government agency people are involved at this point) shot a parachute cord out into the water which in turn the rescue swimmers were able to pull over No Pass Point.

Totten says,

Our first rescuer is within 50 feet of them.  Once we reach them, we have to rappel them down 150 foot cliff. Two levels.  The first takes them to where the rescuer is now and then down a second shift.  It’s crazy.  Crazy. You can hear the ocean beside me as the tide comes in.

SHTR and Shelter Cove Fire are rigging ropes and should be able to access victims in the next hour. We’re battling a tide that is coming in.  We have a rescue boat waiting.

She goes on to say,

This is one of the trickiest rescues that a team could actually encounter. If the victims were below, we’d tie off a rope above and rappel down but our victims are above us.  We have to get ropes above them.  That is the tricky part. The crew is working safely so it will be hours yet.

Not only that but dogs complicate the extraction. The two dogs on the cliff are medium sized and will require special harnesses to get them down. They even have flotation devices in them that will keep the dogs afloat in the eventuality of them ending up in the water.

She explained that the stranded hikers survived the chilly ocean night air because they “had jackets.. they had a little water…They are conserving battery power by not calling out on their cell phones.”  She is relieved that none of the people there have been injured which would complicate the procedure.  “[That] would throw in a whole nother level of trouble.”

When asked why no helicopter rescue, she scoffed, “The level of risk of putting a helicopter in isn’t worth it. The bank is straight up and down. The propeller of a helicopter could hit it.  This risk level this way is a lot slower but a lot less.”

Thanks to all the volunteers who are spending an entire day dangerously to save others

UPDATE 8:40 A.M.: Diana Totten is at the scene of the rescue and I’ll be getting updates as often as is possible. According to Totten, the stranded hikers are all in their twenties in good health and have cell phones. They are stuck on the side of a cliff. They are all uninjured.  But they have been without blankets, etc. through the night.  Apparently, Totten said, the hikers went cross country and got stuck.

According to her, the rescue will be “very, very tricky.”  Shelter Cove Fire Crew will have to go up a cliff to get to a place they can “sidehill across” to reach the stranded folk.  The plans last night had been to get help from the Coast Guard but the ship is unable to get close to the cliff so that plan has been scrapped.

Shelter Cove Fire is using a rescue boat to shuttle people and items near to the cliff.  Also, crew are accessing the area with quads to bring in additional gear.

UPDATE 7:55 A.M.: KMUD is reporting that the rescue has resumed near Dead Man’s Beach. The hope is that a tide change will help the rescue effort.

is reporting that two men and one woman as well as two dogs are stranded on a cliff south of Shelter Cove.  The Times Standard says that the report came in about 7 P.M. and that The Southern Humboldt Technical Rescue team was working to rescue them.  Then about quarter after ten this evening, KMUD announced that Shelter Cove fire was calling off the rescue for the night and “might ask Coast Guard for help in the morning.”


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