The search on Mount Baldy for a 52-year-old Irvine man who went missing while hiking with three other people was scheduled to resume Thursday morning, a day after a candlelight vigil was held in the man’s honor.
Sreenivas “Sree” Mokkapati and his group started hiking from the Village at Bear Flats to the Mt. Baldy Summit on Sunday morning, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. At some point, Mokkapati became separated from the group.
The last person to see him, Justin Williams, told NBC4 he wished he would have told Sree to turn around.
“I keep reliving that moment in my mind,” Williams said. “He muttered something, I didn’t quite hear what he said, and then he just kept walking.”
Search and rescue volunteer teams from San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Orange, Kern and San Diego counties, with assistance from two sheriff’s helicopters, searched the mountain for any sign of Sree or his direction of travel, the department said.
Teams searched in snow covered conditions at elevations of about 7,000 feet and in some higher elevations the snow is waist deep, the department said.
“Mr. Mokkapati is considered an experienced hiker and has hiked Mount Baldy a number of times,” the SBCSD said. “He was prepared for a day hike and has limited supplies.”
Mokkapati was last seen wearing a gray “puffy” jacket and gray pants. Anyone with information about his whereabouts was urged to contact the Fontana Sheriff’s Station at 909-453-5392, or 909-677-9436. Callers wishing to remain anonymous are urged to call the We-tip Hotline at 1-800-78-CRIME.
At a Wednesday night candlelight vigil, Sree’s son, Shravan Mokkapati, said it was “heartbreaking” to find out that his father was not among four other stranded or injured hikers rescue teams came across during the day.
He also pleaded for more certified volunteers to help search for his father.
Meanwhile, some areas of Mount Baldy have been closed temporarily due to the search, according to the SBCSD.
“While searching for (the) missing hiker, sheriff resources have been diverted multiple times to rescue other hiker(s) who are unprepared to be hiking in snow & ice. With cooperation of Angeles National Forest, several areas of Mount Baldy are temporary closed while we continue our original search,” the SBCSD said in a tweet.
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