Experienced hiker found dead in Trinity County following five-day search

Caroline Ghisolfi

An experienced hiker was found dead Sunday off trail in the Trinity Alps following a five-day search.

A California Highway Patrol helicopter located the backpack of Daniel Komins, 34, between L Lake and Mirror Lake late Sunday morning. Ground teams recovered the backpack and confirmed it belonged to Komins, who was found dead soon afterward by Trinity County Sheriff’s officers.

“A preliminary investigation appears to indicate that Komins may have fallen in the steep and rocky terrain,” the Sheriff’s Office reported in a news release posted on Facebook on Sunday.

The office thanked the organizations involved in Komins’ search, which included the California Highway Patrol, California National Guard, U.S. Forest Service and Civil Air Patrol together with search and rescue teams from five area counties.

“Although this was not the outcome that was wanted, the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office as well as family members of Komins, wanted to thank the Search and Rescue members as well as all other volunteers, for assisting in bringing Daniel Komins home,” the Facebook post said.

Many others have since shared their grief on social media.

“For all of us that knew Daniel, we were blessed,” Blue Lake Volunteer Fire Department Chief Ray Stonebarger, a coworker and friend of Komins, posted on Facebook around 5 p.m. Sunday. “Daniel you are missed.”

Komins began his hike near a Canyon Creek trail on Aug. 10, the Sheriff’s office reported on Facebook on Aug. 15. He was an experienced hiker and carried a GPS tracker and cellphone, according to the Sheriff’s office. But officials could not detect any activity from either device after Aug. 11, when Komins called his girlfriend, Carli Hollis, from a campsite to let her know he was all right, the Facebook post said.

Hollis and Komins’ family didn’t hear from him after that, the Facebook post said. Hollis contacted emergency services Thursday, when Komins was supposed to return home, according to the post.

A search and rescue team was dispatched the next morning. More than 40 ground searchers and several all-terrain vehicle and helicopter teams searched for Komins for five days, the Sheriff’s office said in an update Aug. 16.

Because Komins was an emergency medical technician who often donated his skills and time to the Blue Lake Volunteer Fire Department, many volunteers joined the search, the department posted on Facebook. Blue Lake Volunteer Fire also involved the community, asking to donate materials and resources to aid the search.

The search team found Komins’ unoccupied vehicle Thursday evening near a Trinity County trailhead, the Sheriff’s office reported.

On Friday, the team located other backpackers who had contact with Komins, according to the Sheriff’s office. They said Komins was in good health Monday morning and suggested he may have deviated from the itinerary, the Sheriff’s office said.

As the weekend approached, Hollis and Zacarías Komins expressed their appreciation toward the volunteer searching teams, offering to finance their efforts through a Go Fund Me fundraiser. Donations reached nearly $9,000 in two days, greatly surpassing the goal of $1,000.

Saturday’s search started with “a larger wave of searchers including from Sacramento,” according to an update on the Go Fund Me page. Donations continued to come in until 4 p.m. Sunday.