By Stephen Tool, MCIN Staff
Vice President of the Mineral County Search and Rescue, Dennis Bunch, was at work April 15, when he got the call from his father, Glenn Bunch, MCSAR president that they had a missing family on their hands.
“I got hold of my boss and said, ‘I’m going,’ and out the door I went,” Dennis Bunch said.
Bunch talked to the dispatch office to collect the pertinent information before heading out on the search: “Dustin Gurule, Maria Martinez and five children age 1-13 went camping at ‘The Elbow,’ (a popular camping spot on the East Walker River). The group went out April 13 and intended to come back April 14, but the following day found them still missing.”
Twelve members of the MCSAR and two members of the Sheriff’s Department, including the sheriff himself, participated in the search. This was after relatives of the missing group searched the river area but returned empty-handed.
Bunch had a suspicion the missing group was not camped at “The Elbow” because a search for a missing Mineral County deputy conducted the previous night had not mentioned seeing a group that size camped in the area.
Still, Bunch had his crew double check the area just to make sure. That effort was fruitless as well. Bunch was aware the missing family was in a two-wheel-drive truck. This eliminated travel on some area roads, which allowed Bunch to narrow down the search area.
Eventually, searchers discovered the missing family less than two miles from their campsite attempting to find their way to civilization. The battery had died in their truck.
Both the campsite and the missing family were nearly 20 driving miles from “The Elbow.” Other searchers discovered something else: The family had started a warming fire the night before.
Although the family left after believing the fire extinguished, by the time SAR personnel arrived on the scene, the fire had rekindled itself and threatened to become a full-blown blaze. SAR members immediately went to work hauling water to the fire and moving fuel sources away from hot spots.
Bunch stated the Lyon County Fire Department showed up in time to saturate the ground and prevent any flare-ups. One thing Bunch noted was that the family had an insufficient supply of water and food for their camping trip.