Mt. Baldy, CA – On Saturday, December 14, at approximately 1:00 p.m., a San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue team member radioed and advised he was separated from his partner, 32 year old Timothy Staples. Around 1:30 p.m., a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department helicopter responded to search for the team members. The helicopter located Staples unresponsive in an area of ice and snow. A medic was lowered to Staples and unfortunately, he was discovered deceased. Staples was hoisted and transported from the wilderness. The surviving team member was later hoisted from the mountain and returned to the command post. Staples and his partner were part of the ongoing search efforts to locate missing hiker Sree Mokkapati of Irvine who has been missing since December 8. Staples was one of the 126 people working in 23 teams searching large sections of Mt. Baldy. He was a dedicated volunteer and a 9-year veteran with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department – Search and Rescue Team assigned to the West Valley Search and Rescue Unit.
Investigators are responding to the location to conduct interviews and review the scene for information that can help identify what occurred. This investigation is ongoing, and specifics details are unavailable. At this time, all remaining search teams have been recalled from the mountain. The initial search operation for Mr. Mokkapati has been suspended and search operations will be reevaluated.