Two missing California mountain hikers found alive after five days missing

(Reuters) - After five days missing, rescuers found two California mountain hikers alive on Wednesday evening, the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department announced.

A search team found Eric Desplinter, 33, and Gabrielle Wallace, 31, in the Cucamonga Canyon near California's Mt. Baldy area, which is 50 miles (80 km) northeast of Los Angeles, officials said in a statement.

They were gone since Saturday.

"This evening a search team in Cucamonga Canyon found two sets of footprints and began following them," the statement said.

The searchers then called for a sheriff's helicopter to fly over the area, where the aviation team spotted a campfire which helped them zero in on the lost hikers.

A friend of the two hikers told the media earlier this week that the pair had a limited amount of food and water, and reported them missing on Sunday after they failed to return from their excursion.

Desplinter, who is from Chino Hills, is an experienced outdoorsman, the Sheriff's Department statement said earlier this week. He was wearing a jacket and his friend Wallace, who is from Rancho Cucamonga, had a sweater.

They were hoisted one-at-a-time onto a helicopter and taken to a local fire station to be examined by paramedics and reunited with family and friends, officials said.

The search covered more than 30 miles, according to the sheriff's office.

"Volunteers are a real blessing to our agencies, providing thousands of hours giving back to make our communities better and stronger," San Bernardino Sheriff John McMahon said in a statement.




(Reporting by Rich McKay, additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; editing by Giles Elgood)