The group of hikers who discovered actor Julian Sands’ body in the Southern California mountains months after his disappearance have opened up about the “surreal” experience for the first time.
After the “The Killing Fields” actor, 65, failed to return from a trip in the San Gabriel Mountains north of Los Angeles, his wife filed a missing report on January 13. He was last spotted in the notoriously dangerous for hikers area of Mount Baldy.
After months of fruitless search attempts, his body was discovered on June 24 by local hikers.
The leader of the hiking group, who was well aware that Sands had vanished on the mountain, like all other hikers in the region, had a chilling worry in the back of her mind: “I hope we don’t find a dead body today,” she told the Los Angeles Times.
“It was surreal,” hiker Bill Dwyer told the outlet.
The hikers noted how difficult it was to find him because his remains blended into the landscape.
After three hours, the group came across a lone boot. They soon found another boot, a trekking pole, and finally, human bones. They were not surprised by their discovery.
The organizer admitted to walking past the first boot, which was later seen by another hiker.
They said that the bones had been scattered, most likely by wild animals. However, avalanches or melting snow could have moved Sands’ remains into a nearby area.
The absence of gear needed for such a treacherous winter climb worried the hikers the most.
They did not find a backpack, which may have had essential survival gear inside. They also observed that Sands was “dressed like a ninja” in dark attire, making him difficult to find by rescuers.
According to the LA Times, the hikers also observed that he was using microspikes, which are tiny metal cleats that are ideal for walking on snowy pathways but ineffective on ice mountain trails.
“I was a little shocked to see the microspikes,” Dwyer said. “They were just the wrong tools for the job at hand.”
No traces of a helmet or an ice axe were discovered. They also found Sands’ smartphone sitting on a rock beneath a tree.
Dwyer told The Times that after discovering the bones, he sent an SOS to authorities using his pocket-sized satellite messaging device, the Garmin InReach, detailing their precise location. Eight minutes later, responders showed up.
Three days later, authorities said the remains were those of Sands, five months after his disappearance.
The LA Times reports that since 2020, there have been more than 100 rescues and at least 10 fatalities on Mount Baldy.
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