It started out as a family outing to celebrate Mai Chor Vang’s 100th birthday on Wednesday, June 19, but it soon turned into a search and rescue effort.
Mike Grant from Plumas County Search and Rescue recounted the story Friday afternoon, June 21, just hours after he helped carry the woman to safety.
“This had a happy ending,” he said of the search.
The woman along with two daughters and a son-in-law were in the Four Trees area of the Feather River Canyon hunting for a flower used for medicinal purposes. The family is from the Eldorado Hills area.
During a short walk to see what was available, the 100-year-old became separated from her family at about 1 p.m. They searched for hours, but could not find her, eventually calling in more family, as well as church members, who arrived at about 10 p.m. to help look for Vang.
They searched until 9 a.m. on Thursday morning and then called 911 for help. The initial call was taken by Butte County and then forwarded to Plumas.
Grant said he and other search and rescue members arrived in the early afternoon to find about 20 people looking for her.
“We found her hat almost immediately,” Grant said, though that proved to be of little help, because they knew she had been in that location.
They searched until dark on Thursday and then returned at daybreak Friday morning to resume.
The group split into two — with search and rescue and the dogs taking one area, and church members and family another. The latter group spied her across a ravine about a half-mile from where she had been seen two days earlier.
“Once we found her it took a while to get her out, because though it wasn’t steep, there was a lot of thick brush and manzanita,” Grant said.
When asked about her condition and disposition, Grant said, “She doesn’t speak English, but she was talking a lot and smiling.”
He said she had “a lot of bruising and was cold,” but appeared to be in pretty good condition considering her ordeal. She was airlifted to a hospital for evaluation.
Through conversations with family members, Grant learned that she had twice climbed down to a creek area to get a drink of water, but tumbled on one of those trips and hit her head. She managed to climb back up to higher ground because she reasoned that searchers would be able to see her better.
Searchers from Yuba, Nevada and Butte counties joined the Plumas effort along with five dog teams, including those from the California Rescue Dog Association and Wilderness Finders.