Two Hikers Rescued at Sespe River Tar Creek Falls
Ventura County Sheriff's Department
Ventura County Sheriff's Department

On 10/01/19, at about 1:44 PM, Sheriff’s Dispatch received a report of two overdue hikers. The two hikers, (P) Debbie Murphy and (P) Myrto Karamitsou, were due to return on 09/30/19. While initiating an investigation, the hikers activated their personal locator beacon (PLB). A Ventura County Aviation Unit helicopter (Air Squad 8) was dispatched and located the hikers. The hikers were flown out of the mountains to a predetermined location in Fillmore.

On 09/27/19, at about 3:00 PM, Karamitsou and Murphy started hiking from Middle Lyons Camp Ground, north of Ojai. Their plan was to hike from Middle Lyons Camp Ground, traverse the Sespe River, and emerge in Fillmore. They estimated they would arrive in Fillmore on 09/30/19.

Karamitsou and Murphy packed accordingly for their hike; they brought enough food, proper clothing, and a water filtration system to sustain them for the duration of their trek. Additionally, they carried a PLB in case of an emergency.

When Karamitsou and Murphy did not return on the planned date, Karamitsou’s husband notified Sheriff’s Dispatch. From him, we were able to obtain information about Karamitsou’s and Murphy’s planned route, provisions, and hiking experience. The Ventura County Aviation Unit was notified about the circumstances and began preparing to launch Air Squad 8 for a search of the hikers. Just prior to the launch of Air Squad 8, Karamitsou and Murphy activated their PLB.

Activation provided responders with accurate latitude and longitude coordinates to assist in locating the overdue hikers Air Squad 8 took off from the Camarillo Airport and located Karamitsou and Murphy in the Sespe River, near Tar Creek Falls. Air Squad 8 performed a hover load to allow for a Crew Chief and Search and Rescue Paramedic to depart the aircraft.

The crew members were hover loaded onto a large boulder in the river bottom and made contact with the hikers. They learned Karamitsou and Murphy were not injured and did not require any medical attention. Karamitsou and Murphy activated their PLB because the terrain prevented them from progressing further down the Sespe River towards the city of Fillmore. Karamitsou and Murphy were secured onto Air Squad 8, via a hover load, and flown to a predetermined location in Fillmore.

Karamitsou and Murphy were prepared with the appropriate level of food, water, and personal survival gear. Karamitsou and Murphy notified someone outside of their hiking group about their trip. This included departure and arrival locations, planned route, and an arrival date.

Additionally, Karamitsou and Murphy were carrying a PLB with them.
The Ventura County Aviation Unit would like to remind all individuals who enter the backcountry to register your trip with someone who is or will be able to keep track of your progress. Additionally, it is important to recognize your limitations when traversing difficult terrain. Karamitsou’s and Murphy’s use of their PLB enabled rescuers to pin point their exact location without conducting a lengthy search.

Nature of Incident: Rescue of Two Hikers
Report Number: 19-154450
Location: Los Padres National Forest, Sespe River near Tar Creek Falls
Date & Time: 10/01/19 @ 3:15 PM
Unit(s) Responsible: Special Services / Aviation Unit – Search & Rescue
(S)uspects, (V)ictims, (P)arty, (D)ecedent City of Residence Age
(P) Myrto Karamitsou Ojai 50
(P) Debbie Murphy Ojai 58
Prepared by: Deputy Kristopher Doepking
Approved by: Captain Paris