Search Suspended for Missing Canadian Hiker

Rick Eastep

Rick Eastep

Press release from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office:

The search for a missing Canadian hiker has been suspended following four days of intensive searching by crews from eight different agencies.

On Jan. 9, 2019, at about 7:50 p.m., Shelter Cove Fire personnel were dispatched by CAL FIRE Fortuna to a call for a solo male hiker with possible back injuries in the Miller Flat area of the Lost Coast Trail. The hiker, identified as 32-year-old Rick Raymond Eastep of Ontario, Canada, sent a text to the reporting party indicating that he had been injured while hiking the trail, possibly near the Miller Flat area. Due to the nature of the incident, it was soon determined that a search and rescue operation for Eastep was necessary. Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched at about 9:30 p.m.

Due to bad weather, high tides and large surf, portions of the coast were impassable the first night of the search. Even with the worsening conditions, rescue crews were able to locate backpacking supplies and a backpack that appeared to have been washed up by the surf. Later it was confirmed that these items belong to Eastep. A United States Coast Guard helicopter arrived in the Spanish Flat area that night and initiated search operations from the air utilizing a “FLIR” camera.

Crews continued an intensive search well into the morning of January 10,  only pulling off the beaches when high tide and large swells became a life safety issue for rescuers. Over the next four days, search and rescue crews from eight different agencies utilized helicopters, fixed wing aircraft, ATVs, ocean rescue boats and specialized search and rescue teams, including dog teams, to search over 26 miles of rugged water and coastline, and 16 miles of wilderness trails. During that search, several other items belonging to Eastep were located. No sign or evidence other than the items previously mentioned have been located as of January 12.

It is the decision of the command staff of this incident, which includes the Sheriff’s Office, Shelter Cove Fire and Southern Humboldt Technical Rescue, to suspend the intensive search and rescue operations for Eastep as of 3:30 p.m. on January 12. The search area will be periodically patrolled over the next several weeks for any evidence that could lead us to the conclusion of what has been an exhaustive search and rescue operation on a very rugged coastline in very adverse conditions.

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office would like to recognize the many agencies who helped in this search, including Shelter Cove Fire Rescue, Southern Humboldt Technical Rescue Team, Humboldt County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Posse, Shelter Cove CERT Team, USCG Sector Humboldt Bay, CAL FIRE and Bureau of Land Management.

Earlier Chapters: 



  • Condolences to his loved ones. RIP.

  • This is disheartening news to say the least.
    I am hoping very much he is not gone and will be found soon nonetheless.
    Nothing but prayers and support to his family.

  • Living his life at least . I check the weather a lot, and regardless of conditions often don’t venture much past my wood pile these days , let alone attempt the entire Lost Coast Trail . But there he was , regardless of conditions, hiking , and adventuring . There’s something to be said for that, even if -as it seems possible – the ending wasn’t what he envisioned .

    • Well said.

      Sorry to the family and searchers.

      Everyone hoped to find him by now, for sure.

      Life is precious. He was enjoying his.

  • Thanks to all who searched. Its so hard to have to end it this way.
    I trust this group of folks and resources immensely, they have used every tool they could.
    Condolences to the family&community of this man.


  • At least he went doing what he loved, so sorry for family, had to be a fine young man. The search teams are probably the best there is..RIP..

  • Young adventurer doing what he loved I’m sure,living sometimes brings us to our death but it is a sweet journey that gets us our wings “early” ! Possibly falling to the Surfline on an incoming tide with high surf there is certain peril….condolences to his family!

    • I made a similar comment below. Dying while doing what you love and then being in heaven is probably the best thing that can happen to someone.

  • It sounds like a great search team but why suspend the search after 2.5 days? It hasn’t been four days! They only started Wednesday night, and ended it Saturday afternoon. How could he just vanish? Could new teams take turns going out? Please don’t stop searching!

    • i believe he had sent a text two days before it was received by authorities so he’s been missing longer

    • Very easy to vanish in the ocean. It’s very big. 6 days in this weather with an injury near the ocean, it’s time to call it off and save their limited funds for the next missing hiker search.

      We all know the risk we take hiking but we also know the risk for driving. You still gotta live, you can’t hide from risk.

      Sorry your stay was so short, I hope your doing good wherever you are now. RIP

      • I am not criticizing search efforts or the brave individuals who have spent a couple nights out there looking for Rick. I just can’t imagine anyone would want a search party called off after 2.5 days of them looking. Rick may have sent the text Monday, but it was only received Wednesday night… that is when the search started. It hasn’t been long enough at all. Anyone would want a longer search for their loved one. It is devastating to live without answers. Rick is incredibly smart. His text said his back was hurt… it wasn’t “I can’t walk- help!” He would have tried to get off the beach and find shelter, away from the high tide and storms. He wouldn’t just lay out on the beach waiting. If he wasn’t getting cell reception, he would probably turn off his phone to conserve battery power, and climb to a high point to try to get reception. By now his phone would be dead, because maybe he kept trying to make contact. Please, can anyone do something to keep searching for him there. Somewhere up the cliffs? Forrest? He deserves every effort to be found and more than a couple days of looking.

        • They searched for him for four days with no luck. It is too bad the search has been called off. Maybe by checking the trail every few days they will locate him. I think the searchers know that there is not much hope. Finding some of his belongings in the surf paints a very sad picture.

          • it has not been 4 days.. even if you count their initial abbreviated search on wed night. it makes me much less confident in them and makes me think they are incompetant when they lie to try to justify calling off the search. why lie? they admit too that they werent searching the entire time due to high tide and swells (understandable).. how much time were they actually searching on the ground on foot (not up in the air or out on the water) during the 2.5 days they searched? i want to believe they did all they could but exaggerating your efforts does not inspire confidence.. it instills doubt.

            • Those who don’t do, complain, I guess.

              • Those who aren’t there, are desperate for answers! Please don’t be rude to friends and family who are reeling from the unknown. This is a devastating loss. Wouldn’t you want professionals to keep looking for your son, daughter or friend?! 2.5 days is not enough. Please if you are there, keep searching!

            • why lie? Do you understand what kind of terrain they are searching in. It’s called the Lost Coast Trail for a reason.
              I would say the Search and Rescue teams here looking have everyone’s safety in mind, know the limitations of their search powers and what they are up against.
              I truly feel your pain as I lost someone to a plane crash (inland, but locally in Southern Humboldt).
              It was disparaging when the Civil Air Patrol called off the search after 7 days in good weather.
              We eventually found our guy and the plane, but it was on our time and resources, 30 days later. Fate Happens.

            • Don’t argue, go and start looking for him. Now you are blaming the searchers and calling them names. Go post your crap in a toilet. Have some respect for him and his family please.

    • Lost Croat Outburst

      He could vanish into the ocean which seems likely if they found his backpack in the surf. He would not be the first Canadian sucked out off the KR beach and drowned by a sneaker wave, sad to say. A few years back a hiking team from Edmonton, Alberta, I think, was hit by a sneaker wave. At least one young, strong man was literally pulled off the beach and drowned. Could have been me, several times over.

      Yeah, it’s so easy to criticize the rescue team, many of whom were volunteers, including (surprise!) the Coast Guard chopper and crew recently de-funded by Dear Supreme Leader. Yeah, boo hoo, it’s not YOU risking your life to stay over night on the beach waiting for another sneaker wave, waiting for the sake of the victim. Yeah, stay longer, do more, it’s not your butt. They apparently went everywhere and I believe them.

      Condolences to friends and family, sorry it had to end this way. I really thought they would find him injured but alive. Bravo and thank you to the entire rescue team.

    • He was hurt on Monday….thats 5 days 1

  • Why in the world is everyone saying R.I.P. to this man, when he hasn’t been declared deceased yet according to the News? I am Sending Prayers to His Family for his Safe Return.. Nothing has been said that he is gone yet and I pray this will not be the case.. He may or could have Sheltered in Place Somewhere, and I hope he is. If It Turns out to be a sad ending then Yes I will Say Prayers for this family and friends that they find Comfort.. I used to live in Ontario, Canada as well as a few other places there, and it is a beautiful place with very friendly people. Please think Positive thoughts for his family in this unknown time that he is safe and can be reunited with them.

    • No offense but i dont think youve been to the lost coast. Its probably hard to picture.

      There is no where else to go. He would have to climb straight up to get recep.
      Its ocean meeting sheer cliffs in many spots. We also just had a big storm with 20′ waves.

      Thats why the search crews covered 16 miles of land trail and 26 miles of shoreline. They used heat sensors. Helicopters. Feet. 6wheeler.
      Pretty impressive if you ask me.

      The volunteer search&rescue team know the lost coast. They know the tides, whuch creeks swell fast, what areas you can get caught in.
      Its literally the only way others have been found.
      If he was conscious and sheltered in place he would have heard voices, 6wheeler, helicopters, etc.
      Seeing as his items washed up on shore he could have got caught by a sleeper wave. We’ve lost many locals to sleeper waves all the way up to crescent city. We’ve lost local crabbers who’ve gone overboard. Sometimes the ocean keeps their bodies.

      The ocean shelf along the lostcoast does not go very far out thats why esp at black sands if you get sucked out you go straight down fast.

      Im not trying to be mean just honest.
      I completely hope he is found ok, that someone finds him wandering today alive.
      The folks who searched are extremely committed. They are volunteers&need to get back to their children&jobs, but they will be right back out there if needed!
      We do not have a ton of resources here so we need coast guard&sheriffs available. If there is anything else they can do they will come back.

      Trust me, there will be many locals&probably BLM employees walking the beaches&keeping eye out for him.
      Because of our amazing local news like kym, everyone in the county knows he’s missing. We are a caring community&many unfortunately know exactly what this family is going through.

      We all know the risks when setting out into a wilderness area, esp in winter. Thats why many go tho, to truly be in the wild.
      Can just as easily be hit by a car and not found for a day or 2 as has happened in eureka/ recently.
      May he be found soon.

      • Hope for best, I agree. You didn’t mention the area he reported to be in is unpassable during high tide, cliffs on one side and the ocean on the other. If his injuried back prevented him from moving away from this area he would have been in serious trouble.

  • I live in Kitchener, On Canada and we go to the same campground as his aunt and family go to in summer. They are a loving family and I know how anxious they must be. I agree with the person who wonders how people can say RIP when there has been no body found and they have only been searching for a few days. I know they were doing everything possible but I still think it is too soon to call the search off. Please people keep searching – he could be lying hurt under a bush waiting for a rescue team. God bless all of you for your efforts and I pray someone will find him shortly.

    • Mary ,
      I am so sorry. You do not understand why people here are saying RIP because you do not live here. To top of the insane terrain here, he went out in the worst storm we have had in ages. I live right here. If he was alive, he would have heard the helicopters. Please believe they searched in every way possible.

  • An experienced hiker that’s injured would probably try to crawl into some available shelter..maybe left the dry bag as a directional clue..hope he doesnt starve to death alone and injured like that woman hiking in Gasquet a few years ago…she almost made it back to her car….

    • An important detail that was not easy to spot was that his dry bag was found washed ashore by the surf, not placed along the trail.

      • there's still hope

        that means nothing.. seems like he could have been ditching unneeded gear on the beach at low tide.. then it got washed into the surf at high tide.. couldn’t that be the case?

        • There are many unlikely scenarios that could be the case but Occam’s Razor suggests that the likely scenario is almost certainly what happened.

          Your dry bag isn’t unneeded gear during a winter storm on the Lost Coast.

          A man (or woman) could easily freeze to death in that wilderness even on the warmest day.

  • I really feel for the people who want the search to go on. The image below is of the lost coast, there isn’t a lot to search, the cliff to the water’s edge, anything else they have done, extensively. This is one of the best search and rescue teams in the country, not just at what they do, but at the resources they source. Most of all from their unwavering dedication. This was no harder of a decision on anyone but them. They had enough to tell them to not risk another life. They kept it hidden for days that the empty pack and MRE’s nearby were washed up, look at the coastline, below high tide. They still went out and risked their lives for days and nights, in wind and rain and high surf. Thank them. I won’t say RIP just yet, but I will say Rick made his choices that he wanted and was fired up for. I would find peace with that and thank those that have risked everything and lost time with their family and livelihood.

  • My heart goes out to the family and friends of this guy! There is nothing worse than not knowing. I’m so sorry, don’t give up hope!

  • I “saved” a hiker once. He decided to take a “short cut” across a ravine, and the log rolled over his head. Please look in all the “short cuts.”


  • Stinky Wizzleteats

    Man, it’s hard to have to call off a search.

  • Not the news I was hoping to hear. Praying and hoping for Rick to be found. Thoughts to all involved. The song, Sailing Home, by Demis Roussos comes to mind. I am sure Rick’s hike started out “at the height, so nothing can go wrong…”. Yet, as we know, sometimes things can and do go wrong. Sometimes things turn out right, but, as the song says, tomorrow could be wrong…Thoughts again to all involved.

  • I’m so sorry the searchers did not find him. The hope was strong and not knowing what happened is very, very hard. My sympathy to his friends and family.

    • Ricks fate is now in Gods hands. I would like to say a big THANK YOU to all those who were involved in the search effort and for those yet to search. Our love for Rick will always continue whatever the outcome. Love you Rick

      • I don’t know Rick but believe he works where I work and have heard him mentioned by others. I’ve been following this story for a few days and really hoped they would find him. My heart goes out to all of you who care about him and I still hope that he is somehow found.

      • Dale Eastep, I am So sorry. Praying for closure and comfort for those who love him. I live right here and everyone of us are heartbroken by Rick still missing. Your whole family and his friends are in our thoughts and prayers. We may not have know him, but it hurts us too.

  • Why Hiking Alone Is Dangerous. … However, if you feel like engaging solo hiking, just to have a moment to yourself is fine but make sure it is a very short distance hiking and you should inform someone of your location because hiking alone can be dangerous

    If you are considering going on your first solo hike, here are some tips to stay smart and put your mind at ease.

    Pick a well-traveled, well-marked trail. …
    Tell someone where you are going. …
    Know your limits. …
    Be prepared. …
    Trust your instincts.

    • just a thought that i dont really see much of around here are elbs they are fairly cheap and once activated make finding you or your party alot easier. with all the rules and such i am thinking that if people wish to go hiking they should be required to carry one. sure there are some draw backs but they have become really good and you can pick them up for under 200 usd.

  • Heartbreaking!

    On the bright side, his family seem to be Christian. So whatever has happened they can take solace that, in their view, it was part of yawehs plan, and that now he is in eternal paradise.

    With eternal paradise waiting, and since paradise next to your deity is obviously preferable to mortal life on Earth, a short life is actually a very good thing.

    Still, even though they can be happy for him, they have to greave for his absence here on Earth.

  • Is there a GoFundMe link for us to help chip in with the finances needed to continue searching? Drones with thermal cams would help now and future searches.
    I pray for him and his family, that God will guide & help us to locate him.
    How could he have hurt his back? Did he lift something out of curiosity or necessity? Did he slip and twist? Did a branch swing back and hit him wrong? Was his backpack out of adjustment or broken?
    Did the wind scatter the mre’s, backpack and dry pouch into the ocean?
    I pray new teams with new equipment can be deployed to look under every log or in every hollow tree or cave he might have taken shelter under, or every high spot he might have climbed to for cell reception.
    My heart goes out to his loved ones, and to the desperate searchers.
    Link to the Fund raiser that will help continue the search please.

    The many ways that thermal cams help all emergency workers.

    Short demo

    • “thermal cams” aka “FLIR” cameras were used the first night and then some. Third papragraph in article.

      • The local teams of search and rescue didn’t use a drone rigged with thermal cam. The thermal plane that was used came in at a later time and at a higher expense.
        The links I listed are about the drones with thermal cam.
        They shouldn’t have to wait for bigger and more expensive rigs. The Drone Thermal Cams allow the searchers to immediately begin a search.

  • Poster formerly known as Matt

    I have been following this story and hoping he would be found. I still hope there is a miracle and he turns up. However, the people who are second guessing the search teams don’t know the Lost Coast. I have hiked it several times. It’s no joke. Beautiful but also rugged and dangerous, and that’s in the summer, not winter in a storm. It’s not forest. For a lot of the hike, it’s a narrow strip of beach with a straight-up cliff of the other side. There’s no where to go but into the cold Pacific Ocean.

  • Praying for a Miracle

    Rick is my co-worker, friend and one of the best guys I know. I am praying for a miracle. My heart goes out to his family I know he is an uncle to some little ones and I can’t imagine how hard this is for his loved ones not knowing.

    Rick was telling me all about this trip before Christmas and he was so excited.

    Thank you to all of the rescuers who took the time to help in the search. I am sure it wasn’t easy to call it off.

    Miracles happen every day and I am hoping to see one here.

  • nice looking fella.very sad.

  • guy took a risk and now he’s dead…whoops. goes to show how fragile life is. some people in the comments mention that now he’s in heaven. no, he’s not. there is no heaven. this is the only life you’ve got. thats why its important not to waste it. “he died doing what he loved”…i doubt that’s what he was thinking as he gasped for breath in the rising surf.

    dont take stupid risks, people.

  • Please respect the family “reality bites”. Your insight is given at a time where individuals who are grieving are check for updates on this site.

    Thank you.

  • Can’t terrible comments be removed??

    • Here are the rules this site operates under. If you think a comment violates one, reply to it with my name and what violation you think it should be deleted for.

  • I cannot fully express how heartbreaking this news is. Sandra, Steve, Neil, Dale, Kim; thinking of you all.

  • Kym, is it true his body was found? And with a location decice on him? Did the family hire someone to continue to locate him?

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