Interviews with Lead Rangers

These two interviews with the lead National Park Rangers were undertaken on my behalf in 2013 by L.A. author and researcher Ina Hillebrandt.

Ranger Jeff Ohlfs

Do you remember when and how you found out Ed was lost?
It was on Sunday, I’m not sure how.
Any feelings you can remember about Ed and the whole event in 2010?
That’s not really part of the job. If we allow ourselves to have feelings, we wouldn’t really be able to do our job.
What is the role of the Rangers in a search like [the one you conducted for] Ed?
Anything that happens in the park we take the lead – we’re law enforcement for the park. We use the resources available to us. We impounded the car to look for signs of criminal activity, and for clues. We can’t just leave it out.
We start with what we call a Hasty Search. That’s what we did when we first found out Mr. Rosenthal was missing. In a Hasty Search we look at critical areas, searching for signs of the lost person. We assume something criminal happened until we find out it hasn’t. We search vehicles to look for clues, and look for footprints.
Was it all volunteers doing the hasty search?
No. We have a professional staff. We called in the volunteers later, when our team didn’t find anything, and then we also call nearby teams. They did find footprints to follow, but our staff didn’t find anything that first day.
When would you call in other agencies?
We don’t have enough people to look when the search hasn’t turned up anything in our immediate area. That’s when we called in the Riverside and San Bernardino Sheriffs Department.
What was important to learn from Ed’s search?
I have to say that Mr. Rosenthal made some critical errors. He kept on going. We tell people, “Hug a tree.” If you realize you’re lost, the best thing to do is stay put. When you keep on going that makes our job that much harder… makes you hard to find. Why didn’t he go back in the direction he came from? We also tell people to retrace their steps. Why would Mr. Rosenthal drop down that steep cliff when he didn’t come up it to begin with? He kept going down a series of drop-offs that were not part of his original hike.
Now can I ask how you felt when you found Ed?
Big smile. Happy.

Ranger Dan Masseros

Do you remember when and how you found out Ed was lost?
The way we found out wasn’t hippies. Laughs.
  It was the guy driving the RV. As I remember it, he flagged Melanie down when Mr. Rosenthal didn’t come back. I think it was Sunday.
Ranger Ohlf told me you always impound a car of a missing person.
We take the car to prevent anyone from damaging it, and to preserve any clues about where the driver might be.  We don’t release it to the family until we have a chance to do a thorough search.
I know you guys don’t talk about this much, but do you recall any feelings during the search for Ed?
Just wanted to find Mr. Rosenthal as quick as possible, healthy, and alive. This was only the second search to go more than a day that year…usually we find people the end of the day, or sometimes we go out on a call for a missing person and by the time we get there the person has already come back.
We called our volunteers that night for the next morning. They went out and found footprints Monday morning, but they disappeared. We had a lot of professional trackers, but they couldn’t find anything. Tuesday is the day we really ramped up. There were a lot of people. Thats when we called in San Bernardino County.
[Sheriff] Jeff Joling mentioned he thought there were about 100 people in the search that day. Does that jibe with your memory?
There were a lot of people. Could have been 100 – that’s realistic. We were looking in Black Rock. Jeff went out with his people and they found tracks on Tuesday – and went out all night, following the tracks.
We really didn’t have anything to go on until Jeff Joling found the tracks and were able to follow them. He called in the morning and told us that Mr. Rosenthal was in the main big wash.
How did you find out Ed had been found?
I was in Black Rock. It was really the San Bernardino helicopter that found him. I got a call on the two way radio.
What were you feeling when you got that call?
Relieved. Excited. Very relieved, and very excited… he was alive! We do a lot of these Search and Rescues, and each time you learn something.

What would you say you learned from this one?
Get somebody else to look at tracks…we have professional trackers, but they couldn’t find anything. It’s always good to have a fresh set of eyes, double check that you’ve thought of everything.

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