On Saturday, Nov. 21, after a four-day search and up to fifty volunteer Search and Rescue members from across the State, Inyo County Search and Rescue (SAR) recovered the body of missing UCLA graduate student Michael David Meyers.
Meyers’ was the first avalanche fatality of the 2015-16 winter season.
Meyers, 25, was last heard from on Nov. 6 when he texted a roommate that he would be heading to Mt. Russell in the Inyo National Forest. His body was in an avalanche field found closer to Mt. Irvine at approximately 11,000 feet.
The search for Meyers began on Nov. 18. after an Inyo County resident discovered Meyers’ parked car on a service road. Inside the car was a detailed itinerary of Meyers’ planned trip.
Inyo SAR crews then employed a California Highway Patrol helicopter and a California National Guard Boeing CH-47 Chinook to begin searching for Meyers near Mt. Whitney.
The area had recently been hit by a strong winter storm, with wind gusts up to 100 miles per hour.
Volunteers found a helmet and beanie in an avalanche path on Friday, Nov. 20. The crew returned to the area the following day with avalanche dogs, avalanche probes, and a RECCO avalanche search device, which uses sonar to see through snow. The RECCO device quickly located Meyers’ body, which was buried under several feet of snow within a 60- to 70-foot-long avalanche area, said Inyo County Sheriff William Lutze.
It appears that Meyers was either caught by an avalanche from above while in the chute, or may have triggered an avalanche near the top of the chute and was carried down, according to Inyo SAR.
SAR team members carried Meyers’ remains to the helicopter landing zone at Meysan Lake and flown to the Lone Pine Airport, where they were turned over to the Inyo County Corner.
According to a Nov. 23 story in the LA Times, Meyers, a Minnesota native, was studying physics. He was an experienced hiker and climber.
“We join together in offering our deepest condolences to all of Michael’s family and friends,” the university said in a statement.
Inyo County SAR thanks Mono County Search and Rescue, China Lake Mountain Rescue Group, Sierra Madre Search and Rescue, Los Angeles County Search and Rescue, Bay Area Mountain Rescue Unit, Marin County Search and Rescue, San Diego Search and Rescue, Montrose Search and Rescue, Wilderness Finders Search Dog Teams, the California Rescue Dog Association (CARDA), and the California Army National Guard Bravo Company for their assistance in completing the mission.