Eaton Canyon Nature Park Center's  main sign. Photo via Eaton Canyon Nature Center
Eaton Canyon Nature Park Center’s main sign. Photo via Eaton Canyon Nature Center
Eaton Canyon Nature Park Center’s main sign. Photo via Eaton Canyon Nature Center

Search and rescue teams on Monday found 15 members of a church group who spent the night in the San Gabriel Mountains after failing to return from a hike near Eaton Canyon.

Search crews responded to the area after 10 p.m. Sunday, when officials were notified that the hikers were missing, Deputy Kelvin Moody said.

A search by ground teams was conducted in the pre-dawn hours, and two helicopter crews were added about 7 a.m. About two hours later, a helicopter crew spotted the group, and all were accounted for, said Deputy Johnie Jones.

A paramedic was lowered from the helicopter to examine the hikers, who were then hoisted to a triage area, Jones said. The hikers were later taken to the command post to be reunited with their families, Jones said.

The sister of one of the hikers said the group was well-prepared for the hike, but they apparently lost cell phone service.

“They came with food. They came with water. They came with harnesses and everything,” Anajancy Armenta said.

The group was not in a restricted area. A makeshift trail that follows the creek up the steep, narrow canyon to a waterfall has been closed, because so many people have been injured or killed in falls in the area.

The church group decided to spend the night in the canyon, because it got dark, a deputy said.

A female hiker said she suffered a minor leg injury during this morning’s rescue.

The 15 hikers ranged in age from 14 to 36, and four of them are juveniles, Jones said. Two people whom deputies encountered late Sunday night in the area were not among the missing hikers as had been thought, but were other people who had gone to the scene to try to find the group, Jones said.

The group is associated with a Seventh Day Adventist church in Huntington Park, according to reports from the scene.

Shortly before the hikers were found, another hiker who was not connected with the group was also hoisted from the rugged terrain, Jones said.

—City News Service

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