Search for Continues for Missing Hiker in Yosemite National Park

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Date: June 21, 2011

Search Efforts Scaled Back on Fifth Day of Search

The search continues in Yosemite National Park for missing hiker George Penca, who was last seen at the top of Yosemite Falls on Friday, June 17, 2011. Due to the fact that the area has been thoroughly searched by personnel and dogs, the terrain is rugged and steep, and no clues have been found, search efforts are being scaled back.

Penca, from Hawthorne, California, began hiking the Upper Yosemite Fall Trail on June 17 with a group of 20 people from his church. The group dispersed at the top of the waterfall and later regrouped to hike back to Yosemite Valley. Penca did not meet back up with the group and a missing persons report was filed later that night.

Initial search activities began on Friday night, June 17, with ground Search and Rescue personnel searching the area Penca was last seen. A full-scale search operation was initiated on Saturday, June 18, including approximately 105 Search and Rescue personnel, two helicopters from Yosemite National Park and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, dog teams, and 14 California County Search and Rescue teams. The search area included 70 square miles of rugged terrain ranging in elevation from 4,000 feet above sea level to 8,000 feet above sea level.  

The change in search strategy was implemented after review of continuing risk exposure for Search and Rescue personnel and the lack of clues as to Penca's location. Yosemite National Park Search and Rescue teams will remain in the Yosemite Falls area and will continue ground search efforts.

Yosemite National Park is asking anyone in the area of the Upper Yosemite Fall Trail who may have information on George Penca to please call the Yosemite Emergency Communication Center at 209-379-1992. Penca is 5' 10" tall, weighs 240 pounds, and has dark brown hair, blue eyes, a stocky build. He was last seen wearing gray sweatpants with white stripes, a black t-shirt that says "D&B" across the chest, or a black tank top, and gray/blue running shoes.  
Agencies involved in the search for Penca include: Yosemite National Park Search and Rescue, Inyo County, Mono County, Mariposa County, Marin County, Fresno County, Tuolumne County, China Lake, Los Angeles County, Nevada County, Sierra Madre, Yosemite Search and Rescue Dog Teams, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and California Explorer Search and Rescue.

Last updated: March 1, 2015

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