Two individuals survived the crash of their small aircraft in a remote area of Joshua Tree National Park. Rocky Harvey of Joshua Tree, California and an unidentified flight instructor were airlifted by helicopter to Desert Regional Hospital at approximately 2:30 a.m. this morning. The crash victims had a variety of injuries and were experiencing hypothermia but both were expected to survive.
Harvey and a flight instructor took off from Joshua Tree yesterday morning with a plan to fly to Palm Springs. When their Cessna 172 never arrived at its destination, the Civil Air Patrol notified the park at approximately 2 p.m. yesterday afternoon. Park rangers sent a small team into the field by about 3:30 p.m. to begin their search in the area of Quail Mountain, the park’s highest peak. Civil Air Patrol had tracked the plane to this general area before it lost contact. Weather in the area yesterday afternoon included blowing rain, hail, and snow with sub-freezing temperatures during the night.
Incident Commander Dan Messaros called out the Joshua Tree Search & Rescue team (JOSAR) to support the search effort. A JOSAR team was put into the field at about 8 p.m. last night. At about 10:15 p.m. the aircraft was located near the summit of 5,814-foot Quail Mountain, and initial first aid was rendered to the crash victims. Both individuals were trapped in the wreckage requiring the use of battery-powered saws to remove them from the downed aircraft.
The victims were taken from the crash site by a Riverside County Sheriffs helicopter and then airlifted to Palm Springs by Mercy Air. The crash is presently under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. At the time of the crash, 8:45 a.m. on Monday morning, weather in the area was poor with a low cloud ceiling and reduced visibility