Ventura hiker who tried to help his heat-stricken girlfriend found dead

Authorities don’t yet have a full picture of Tim Sgrignoli’s final hours in the mountains north of Santa Barbara, but one thing is clear: He was on a mission to help his girlfriend.

The 29-year-old and his partner, both Ventura residents, set out to hike Gaviota Peak on Sunday morning, said Cmdr. Erik Raney of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office. She was struck by heat and is expected to be rescued by helicopter later in the day, but Sgrignoli – who had ventured out alone in search of help – was missing until Thursday, when her body was found in thick brush about 20 feet from Highway 101.

Although the couple packed water, the popular trail that winds through the rugged Santa Ynez Mountains is known to be steep and challenging even in mild weather β€” not to mention the grueling temperatures that have roasted the state over the past weekend.

The couple reached the summit on Sunday and were descending the Trespass Trail when Sgrignoli’s girlfriend, who authorities have not publicly identified, fell ill from the high temperature, Raney said.

The couple sought refuge in the shade of a rocky outcrop and hatched a plan.

Sgrignoli would leave their remaining water and his cellphone to his girlfriend, Raney said. He marked their location along the trail using GPS and sent it to his phone, which they had left in their car at the trailhead parking lot.

Then he went to seek help.

Sgrignoli told his girlfriend that if he didn’t return or contact her by a certain time, she should call 911, Raney said. He planned to get to the car, call for help, gather supplies, and return to her.

Authorities don’t know how long it took after he left his girlfriend, but at some point his condition deteriorated and she called 911, the sheriff’s spokesperson said.

Rescue teams reached her by helicopter and retrieved her with a winch, Raney said. They flew to a nearby fire station for a planned transport to a hospital.

When she told authorities Sgrignoli was missing, crews launched a search, the spokesperson said.

Over the next four days, authorities undertook a major search operation, Raney said. Santa Barbara County search and rescue personnel were supplemented by teams from throughout the region, including the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Ventura and Orange counties, San Diego, San Luis Obispo and to the San Francisco Bay Area.

In extremely hot conditions, teams scoured the area using helicopters, drones, dogs, e-bikes and other tools.

Search crews noticed the temperature in the trailhead parking lot reached 114 degrees on Sunday, Raney said.

“We know it’s warmer on the hill,” he said. “It is exposed without shade or water.”

Search teams and dogs were unable to stay outside for long periods due to the heat, Raney said, and the sweltering conditions would not continue until the following days.

Rescuers persisted, eventually settling on an area of ​​the Trespass Trail that offers views of the 101 Freeway. Authorities believed Sgrignoli may have seen the causeway and decided to pull off the trail in hopes of shortening his route.

That’s where his body was found on Thursday.

Authorities haven’t spotted any obvious signs of a fall or other trauma, and while the county coroner’s office is still investigating, authorities believe Sgrignoli succumbed to heat-related illness, Raney said. .

Los Angeles Times

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