Search crew, who listened to the radio call over earphones, told callers they were in a different location
A group of rescuers trying to find a missing hiker have spoken of their frustration that he ignored their efforts to contact him because he believed the area was unknown.
Rudy Pato became the sixth person to disappear on the Point Dume Trail in California this year when he failed to return on Wednesday evening as planned.
A search began on Thursday, and a number of volunteers volunteered to walk the hilly and remote trail in the Angeles National Forest with the US forest service in the evening.
After hearing a scuffle on the radio early on Thursday, search-and-rescue team leader Steve Battaglia told volunteers at a designated meeting point that he had two two earpieces and put them over their heads in case they made a spontaneous call.
The result: a distress call from Pato himself, who said he was lost and could not locate his trailhead.
Search-and-rescue efforts for Rudy Pato are on hold following his apparent death. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo
When volunteers spotted Pato’s white pick-up truck stopped on the side of the mountain they began to walk up to the vehicle. But, Battaglia said, they heard the same radio call over the earphones and ignored it.
“At that point, that was it. It wasn’t as funny,” he said.
The search for Pato was briefly suspended because of poor visibility, but it resumed on Friday morning with search helicopters and another five teams searching for him. They made several passes around the truck before reaching it at around 9am local time.
Battaglia said Pato seemed to be tired, suffering from hypothermia and cold. He reportedly used a blanket to curl up in the snow, then lay down and tried to shiver his way to a warm spot.
Pato’s colleagues are refusing to give up hope and some began searching for him on their own at 3am on Thursday.
Battaglia was still speaking to Pato over the radio when the search-and-rescue helicopter pulled up and the line went dead. Battaglia is told over the radio that Pato was unconscious. He and others rushed to the truck, but Pato was already dead.
“We’re trying to figure out who Rudy Pato is,” Battaglia said on Thursday. “We’re just talking about calls from the area, from backcountry recreationists. We don’t know anything about Rudy Pato.”