On the evening of Jan. 11, at approximately 5 p.m., Mono County Sheriff Ralph Obenberger was traveling home to June Lake after work when he noticed a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department vehicle stranded on the northbound lane of Hwy 158. Sheriff Obenberger turned around to see if he could lend any assistance. When Sheriff Obenberger made contact with the vehicle, it was occupied by two female Search and Rescue volunteers from the Montrose Search and Rescue team in town finalizing details for a Mountain Rescue Association training to be held in March for more than 300 Search and Rescue volunteers. The volunteers had already checked out of their hotel, hoping to make it back to Southern California that night, when their vehicle just quit on them. Their vehicle became inoperative due to an unknown problem. The volunteers were in contact with their agency watch commander and were trying to figure out how to handle the situation. The volunteers stated that their agency was contemplating sending a tow truck from the Los Angeles area to help them and the volunteers would just need to wait until the tow truck arrived.
The temperature at this time was in the mid-teens and snowing. Sheriff Obenberger told the volunteers that he would have a local tow company, Lee Vining Shell, tow the vehicle and try to determine the problem. Sheriff Obenberger didn’t want to leave the volunteers in the cold, snowy conditions, so he took the volunteers to his house while their vehicle was being inspected. Sheriff Obenberger told the volunteers that he would pay for the vehicle tow charges, if necessary, just to avoid any delays in getting the problem solved.
The volunteers stayed with Sheriff Obenberger and his family until the next morning. The volunteers were taken to their vehicle at Lee Vining Shell where it was ultimately determined that the vehicle could not be repaired due to major mechanical issues in the engine. Lee Vining Shell transported the vehicle and the volunteers back to Southern California.