California High School Athletes Airlifted from Team Building Hiking Event in San Gabriel Mountains

by Amy Myers

Sometimes, the scariest element in the wilderness isn’t bears or weather—it’s navigation. A group of high school athletes from San Bernardino County, Ca. quickly discovered this after becoming lost in the San Gabriel Mountains. In an effort to help their soccer and lacrosse team members better bond with each other, the school sent the 51 students and three coaches on a hike on Mt. Baldy. They began the activity at 9 a.m. on Monday morning.

At the start of the day, the hike went smoothly. The teams traveled up the mountain on the Devil’s Backbone and Ski Hut trails and eventually split off into smaller groups. Mt. Baldy is the tallest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains with an altitude of over 10,000 feet. Most of the high school athletes made it back to their vehicles and were gone by 7 p.m. But unbeknownst to them, more than a dozen fellow students and staff members were still missing.

Likely, both the school’s staff members and students believed that the hike would only take a few hours to complete. With the warm weather during the day as well, the stranded hikers probably didn’t have the resources they needed to safely continue down the mountain into the evening. Without proper tools or shelter, they faced a fair amount of danger in the middle of bear country. And while we would like to believe that the crew could have survived Naked and Afraid style with limited resources, not many of us were that savvy at 16 years old.

Thankfully, though, one of the groups on the mountain was able to call the Sheriff’s Department and report their predicament. Soon, a helicopter arrived on the top of Mt. Baldy to airlift ten high school athletes and three staff members. But that still left two students still missing–one 15-year-old-girl and one 16-year-old guy.

That’s when the situation turned serious.

Missing High School Athletes Spent the Night on the Mountain

As search-and-rescue teams spread out across the area, the Sheriff’s Department helicopter continued the aerial search. Volunteer teams continued searching into the night but still couldn’t locate the two remaining high school athletes.

Tired, cold and probably terrified, the two students waited for rescue to arrive. Finally, at 8:40 a.m. on Tuesday, volunteers found the missing teenagers, who then received an airlift to safety.

With the pair of student-athletes safe and sound, the investigation began to uncover how the crisis occurred in the first place. According to one of the missing students, Andrea Jauragy, she injured herself during the hike and elected to stay back. Her friend decided to stay with her, and the two slowly made their way up the trail to catch up with the rest of the group.

But as they continued hiking, they couldn’t find anyone.

“We’re just extremely, extremely happy that our students were found, and we can’t thank the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s enough for their dedication and hard work,” said Ashley Greaney,  a spokesperson for the Downey Unified School District.