Clue in missing hiker’s photo that saved his life

·News Editor
·2-min read

A missing hiker has been found alive after a photo he earlier sent to a friend was used to pinpoint his location.

Rene Compean was reported missing on April 12 after he sent a text to his friend saying he was lost in the Mount Waterman area in the US state of California and his mobile phone was running out of battery. 

The 45-year-old hiker had sent a picture to a friend earlier in the hike, showing his legs looking dirty and hanging over a cliff. 

Police tried to use it to track his location, however they failed to do so as Mr Compean did not have his location settings switched on.

Rene Compean sent this photo to a friend before he got lost. Source: Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department
Rene Compean sent this photo to a friend before he got lost. Source: Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

In a desperate attempt to track down the hiker, police released the last photo sent to his friend calling for avid hikers in the area to identify his location. 

Incredibly, another hiker recognised the area in the photo and Mr Compean was rescued on April 13 in the Angeles National Forest.

"Rene did not have his location on for his phone, so team members were unable to get his location code from the photo," the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said in a statement. 

"We were able to send the photo out for the media and on social media platforms hoping someone would recognise the area in the photo and call us to help.

"Search and Rescue team members were able to communicate with a member of the community who is also an avid hiker in the Angeles National Forest. He shared information he knew about the area pictured in our posts." 

Missing hiker Rene Compean, 45, seen in a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department photo, was found safe April 13, 2021, in the Angeles National Forest in California. Source: Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department
Mr Compean, 45, is photographed with the sheriff's department after his rescue. Source: Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

Hiker recognises climbing spot

The man who could pinpoint the location, Benjamin Kuo, told KCBS-TV he shared the GPS coordinates of where he believed the photo was taken.

"You don't think that sitting behind a computer and looking at a picture and saying, 'Oh, it looks like that might be where he is', would lead to a person being rescued," Mr Kuo said.

"I was hoping I didn't send them on a wild goose chase, and then they'd get mad at me."

Rescuers searched the areas of Twin Peaks East and Triplet Rocks where they found Mr Compean alive.

He was airlifted to safety by a rescue helicopter. 

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department thanked the public for pulling together to help rescue the hiker. 

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