Coast Guard helicopter rescues 2 at Cape Arago

A Coast Guard helicopter searches for two missing hikers Sunday night at Cape Arago, as seen through a sheriff's deputy's night vision scope.

COOS BAY — Two stranded hikers were rescued from the cliffs near Cape Arago State Park Sunday night by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter in what sheriff's deputies describe as a textbook rescue.

According to the Coos County Sheriff's Office, 19-year-old Michael Klemm of Texas and 37-year-old Troy Wery of San Diego were dressed appropriately for the weather, had food and a cellphone. But the pair had become disoriented while hiking in the nearby woods and wandered until nightfall trapped them on the cliffs.

They had also run out of water.

After the hikers called 911 at 8:30 p.m., deputies responded to trailhead with park personnel and were able to spot the light from the pair's cellphone on a distant cliff using a night vision device.

An MH-65 Dolphin from Coast Guard Air Station North Bend arrived on scene around 10:02 p.m., and was able to pinpoint the hikers' location using forward-looking infrared system and a spotlight.

The helicopter crew eventually decided to hoist Klemm and Wery from the cliff. Deputies gave them a ride back from the North Bend air station to pick up their car.

Rescuers stress that the operation, which took minimal time, isn't typical for search and rescue incidents. The hikers’ access to a cellphone proved critical in finding them.

Sheriff's Office Staff Sgt. Pat Downing said the the county's search and rescue team has had a pretty steady number of callouts in recent years.

As people head into the woods each fall for hunting and mushroom picking, dispatchers start getting calls of missing or stranded outdoorsmen.

"We've had two or three in the past couple of months just from mushroom picking," he said.

The Sheriff's Office team, which is composed of volunteers and overseen by a sworn deputy, is part of a network called CORSAR that includes teams from across southern Oregon and northern California.

In the event of a lengthy search, the Coos County team can call in other CORSAR members to help.

"We'll call CORSAR if it starts to get extensive," he said.

Downing said the agency accepts applications for search and rescue volunteers year-round, and is currently looking to boost its numbers.

Anyone interested in joining Coos County Search and Rescue should call the Sheriff's Office at 541-396-7800 and ask for Deputy Tony Watson.

Reporter Thomas Moriarty can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 240, or by email at thomas.moriarty@theworldlink.com. Follow him on Twitter: @ThomasDMoriarty.

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