MARICOPA COUNTY, AZ – Two hikers are safe after a search and rescue operation was launched in the East Valley Monday morning.
The search began at 5 a.m. at the First Water Trailhead, after two adults failed to return from a daytime hike on Sunday.
Two women in their mid-twenties planned on a nice hike in the Superstition mountains on Sunday afternoon. Neither knew just how easily it would be to get disoriented and end up lost in this mountain range. The ladies were not experienced hikers and were completely unprepared to be in the mountains overnight.
The Sheriff’s Office set up a command post at the trailhead and called in their Search and Rescue volunteers, including Maricopa K-9 Search & Rescue (MarK9), mounted, off-road vehicles, and ground search and rescue personnel.
Within hours the two were found about 3 miles from the trailhead thanks to K-9 Tipper, and her Handler Colette Falco from MarK9. MarK9 is an all-volunteer non-profit organization that serves its community by providing certified K-9 Teams to law enforcement agencies.
"Tipper is an air scent dog and is trained to find any live human in the wilderness… she searches for live human scent," said Falco.
It is easy to underestimate these mountains. The trailheads are obviously marked, and the trail is initially easy to follow, but less than a mile in, the main trails can be easily confused, and trail markers are non-existent. Despite the unpreparedness of the two hikers, they did what they needed to survive and thanks to search and rescue K-9 Tipper they were found and brought home safely.
“It was a fantastic feeling when Tipper found them. Being able to see the 2000+ hours, numerous miles, and dollars spent to train and certify as a dog team turn into saving lives is immeasurable and invaluable,” said Falco.
“Tipper is going to get a big fat steak for dinner tonight – It was an excellent outcome; you couldn't ask for anything better,” said Falco.