Young Hikers Rescued Unharmed

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When four local teen-agers wandered into the forest, and only two returned, search and rescue crews were called in to find the missing pair.


The two were found at 2:30 Monday morning, cold and scared, but unharmed.


Sgt. Adam Shepherd of the Gila County Sheriff's Department said the four teens went hiking down Houston Creek near Star Valley at 12:30 p.m. Sunday. Two of the teens returned home at dusk, but the other two were still heading south, reportedly looking for a swimming hole.


"When they didn't return, we were called out about 7:20 that night," Shepherd said. "We immediately activated our personnel, which is Tonto Rim Search and Rescue, and the DPS Ranger 41 helicopter out of Phoenix."


The helicopter crew was first to spot the boys, nearly two miles south of Star Valley on Houston Creek.


"I guess one of the kids had a lighter with him, although his mother's always on him to not have a lighter," Shepherd said. "He ended up taking a lighter with him, which in this case worked out to be pretty good for us. They were able to start a fire down there, and the helicopter was able to spot them.


The helicopter couldn't land because the terrain was too steep, Shepherd said, and rescuers had to hike down to the teens.


"By this time, it was about 3 a.m. and the air temperature was probably around 38 or 40 degrees," said rescuer Chris Christy. "They had been wet all evening, and we didn't want to put them back in the water and risk hypothermia."


Instead, rope crews helped the boys climb out of the canyon, up to the top where jeeps were waiting to take them back to the rescue command post that had been set up on south Moonlight Drive.


"We finally got them back to their parents around 5 a.m.," Christy said. "They were cold, wet and hungry, and their parents were awfully glad to see the youngsters."

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