Parts of Mount Baldy were closed Friday morning in an effort to help search and rescue teams find a 52-year-old Irvine man who went missing while hiking with three other people.
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, Tulare, Fresno, San Mateo and Los Angeles counties searched the mountain Thursday for any sign of Sree or his direction of travel. Air support was limited Thursday because of high winds, 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 that came across during the day.
He also pleaded for more certified volunteers to help search for his father.
The closure of some areas of Mount Baldy was in effect until Dec. 31 or until the search and rescue operation ends, according to the SBCSD.