Central Valley

Searchers find 7-year-old lost in Emigrant Wilderness

PINECREST — A 7-year-old Modesto boy spent the night alone, lost in the Emigrant Wilderness near Pinecrest, until rescuers found him Sunday morning.

According to Tuolumne County sheriff's Sgt. A.J. Ford, Brian Hill's family reported him missing Saturday afternoon.

They were part of a group camping near Pinecrest Lake. "About 1 o'clock yesterday, his dad and some of the people from the group were away from camp fishing," Ford said. "They were on their way back to the camp and he and his dad got into a little footrace."

Brian ran ahead and out of sight; when the group returned to camp he wasn't there.

"The family and their group looked for him for a few hours," Ford said. "At 5:48 p.m., they called the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Office."

The Sheriff's Office launched an air and ground search, with help from Calaveras County Search and Rescue, the U.S. Forest Service, California Highway Patrol and volunteers. Dog teams from outside the area came in to help as well.

"They searched for him throughout the night," Ford said.

A team on horseback, accompanied by one of the members of the camping group, found Brian about 10 a.m. Sunday. Ford did not know how far away from camp the boy was, but said he was unhurt and didn't need any medical treatment.

"There was no severe weather, but it had to be cold (Saturday night)" Ford said. "I can't imagine how scared the little guy was."

Temperatures near Pinecrest have been dipping into the 50s at night. The area is densely forested, with rough and rocky terrain.

Ford said the county's search and rescue team has been called out about once a week in recent months, but most searches end quickly. The longer someone is missing, the more likely he or she is in danger.

"We're really happy to get a happy ending to this one," Ford said.

Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at pguerra@modbee.com or 578-2343.