Mountain biker found dead in Cleveland forest was celebrating birthday
Andres Marin of Corona began a planned ride about 7 a.m. Saturday, his 34th birthday, but failed to return home for an afternoon celebration. He was wearing only a thin shirt and cycling shorts. Officials urge hikers and bicyclists planning even short day trips to prepare for the worst.
Christyna Arista was not going to wait.
Her husband, Andres Marin, was lost in the darkness in the Cleveland National Forest, injured, disoriented, cold, wet and lightly dressed.
The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department had suspended its search for the night Saturday and the volunteers with the Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit had decided conditions were too treacherous to ascend the trail on which the mountain biker was lost.
So Arista, an experienced hiker, gathered six other family members and against the advice of sheriff’s officials set out on foot about 3:45 a.m. Sunday from Corona toward Santiago Peak in the Santa Ana Mountains. They split up into twos and threes, carrying flashlights and other equipment.
They ascended Indian Truck Trail on the belief that Marin was beginning a descent from the peak. He had called his wife about 5:30 p.m. Saturday more than two hours after he was supposed to have come home to say that he didn’t know where he was and that, although he was headed down the mountain, he didn’t think he could make it. His speech was slow, and he had difficulty answering questions. He said he had fallen.
Shortly before Arista’s brother-in-law arrived at Santiago Peak about six hours and 13 miles later, another volunteer rescuer who had ignored sheriff’s officials found Marin’s body.
Marin’s hands were on the handlebars and his feet were on the pedals. The bike was leaning against the side of the hill.
Marin was purple, and he was dead.
ANGRY WITH RESCUERS
In an interview in the couple’s home Monday, Arista said she was upset that rescuers did not do more to find her husband immediately after she reported him missing about 6 p.m. Saturday.
“I’m angry with them,” said Arista, 33. “I don’t think they made the right choice.”
Sheriff’s Lt. Zach Hall said ideally the department would have sent a helicopter to follow the approximately 53-mile route that Marin, 34, had planned to follow along Skyline Trail, Main Divide Road and Indian Truck Trial.
But the steady rain that night prevented the helicopter from flying, Hall said. Rescuers also ruled out using motorized vehicles that normally would be able to navigate the dirt road because Friday’s heavy rain left the clay soil too slick. The conditions also made hiking to wherever Marin might have been dangerous.
“We could have set up ourselves for a self-rescue. I would not have sent people up there to get hurt,” Hall said.
A sheriff’s news release said a deputy was positioned at the Skyline Trailhead that night, and rescue teams were organized for an early-morning search. Conditions improved enough by 6 a.m. to send out off-highway vehicles and a helicopter.
“I’m upset that we couldn’t get to him in time,” Hall said.