Lost Hiker Rescued Alive by Emergency Cell Phone Record Analysis

By: Hawk Analytics
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Hawk Analytics
Hawk Analytics
TUOLUMNE, Calif. - May 5, 2020 - PRLog -- March 26, 2020 started out as a beautiful day in Tuolumne County California. Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, a day hike in the Red Hills Recreational Area at the foothills of the Stanislaus National Forest seemed to be a good idea for getting out while practicing social distancing, but the trip had unintended consequences for one female hiker.

After hiking for 6 hours, a woman found herself lost. She followed several paths that looked familiar but she ended up even more lost. As night was falling, and her cell phone battery was dying, she placed a call to a family member to report she was lost in the Red Hills area. Soon after that, her phone went dead.

Family members called the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Office (TCSO) who started "pinging" her cell phone. They dispatched patrol deputies and a California Highway Patrol airship to the area. TCSO Search & Rescue (SAR) was activated to assist in the search. It was now dark and the pings were not providing information, due to the fact that her cell phone was dead. The phones last location reported showed she was three miles outside of the Red Hills Recreational Area.

Due to weather conditions, the terrain, and the lack of daylight, the Incident Commander on scene made the decision to suspend operations and wait for first light to resume the ground and air search. Meanwhile, a high-tech investigator from TCSO was asked to assist with reviewing the Call Detail Records (CDRs) related to the woman's cell phone. Verizon Wireless provided the CDRs along with specialized location records.

On March 27, the investigator examined the records. At 1:50am PST, he reached out to the Hawk Analytics Emergency Response Team, a 24/7 exigent support team specializing in examining and mapping cell phone records. Within minutes of reviewing the records, several areas of interest (GPS coordinates) were identified by the Hawk Analytics team as good areas in which to focus search efforts, assuming the hiker would stay put during the night and not change her location or try to hike out of the area.

Since Hawk Analytics inception in 2013, any law enforcement agency handling an emergency that involves cell phone data analysis or mapping is welcome to use CellHawk for free. CellHawk is a secure, web-based software that combines cellular engineering experience with a clear understanding of investigators' needs that is used by hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the country.

At first light, the TCSO Incident Commander dispatched several TCSO SAR teams to those geo-locations and the first SAR team found the hiker alive.

This incident is a great example of how cell phone records can assist in finding missing persons and the help that Hawk Analytics can provide to first responders.


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