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Downey High students flown to Mt.  Bald rescue

School district officials were investigating what was wrong after more than a dozen students and staff at Downey High School were rescued from Mt. Baldy over two days, with two teenagers spending a freezing night on the mountain.

The group of student athletes and coaches found themselves stranded during what was supposed to be a team-building hike, said Ashley Greaney, spokesperson for the Downey Unified School District.

Multiple rescues are carried out each week from the steep mountain, but rarely groups of this size, said Cindy Bachman, spokesperson for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

About 51 students from Downey High’s football and lacrosse teams, along with three coaches, left at 9 a.m. on Monday for a group hike up the mountain, officials said.

The group hiked the Devil’s Backbone and Ski Hut trails, both considered difficult, and eventually split into separate teams.

At around 7 p.m., after most of the hikers had safely returned to their cars and left the area, the sheriff’s department received a call saying a group was stranded at the top of the mountain.

A helicopter team located most of the group and hoisted 10 students and three adults to safety on Monday evening, sheriff officials said.

But two teenagers were still missing, they told MPs: a 15-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy.

Search and rescue teams were deployed on the ground and the crew of a sheriff’s helicopter scanned the area from the air.

Teams of volunteers continued to search through the night and found the pair at around 8:40 a.m. the next morning.

The teenagers were then flown to safety, authorities said.

Andrea Jauragy, an 11th grader identified as one of the last two to be rescued, tearfully told KTLA-TV Channel 5 that during the hike she was injured and her friend stayed with her.

As we tried to climb the mountain, “we didn’t find anybody,” she said, “and we kept going, but we didn’t find anybody.”

The coaches who had left with all the students stayed in the area overnight and staff from the Downey District arrived the next morning to provide support to the students and their families, Greaney said.

“We are just extremely, extremely happy that our students have been found, and we cannot thank the San Bernardino County Sheriff enough for their dedication and hard work,” she said.

Team-building exercises among school athletes are not uncommon, but this activity was new, Greaney said.

The district has launched an investigation “and will take appropriate measures to prevent this type of incident from happening again in the future,” according to a statement provided by the school district.

Mount. Baldy is the highest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains, reaching over 10,000 feet.

People often get stranded there and helicopter rescues are often the only way to get them out of the rough terrain, Bachman said.

Sometimes hikers get injured or lost and find themselves in areas that are difficult for ground crews to access, such as the side of a cliff.

“They often perform these rescues,” Bachman said, “but that doesn’t take the danger away from the situation.”

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