A San Diego County man believed to have gone missing Sunday in Joshua Tree National Park was found conscious and alert but injured four days after he apparently fell, injured his head and became immobile, park officials said.
Search and rescue crews found 54-year-old Paul Hanks around 4 p.m. Thursday after previously finding his pickup parked in the Maze Loop parking lot, Joshua Tree public information officer George Land said. Hanks had driven to the park from the San Diego area on Sunday, his birthday, but never checked into a hotel he’d booked in the area that night, nor the hotel he’d booked in Las Vegas the next night.
Joshua Tree Search & Rescue crews put out a missing persons notice for Hanks on Wednesday, a day before he was discovered.
“It appears that he fell about 20 feet (and) sustained some head injuries,” Land said. “We don’t know the exact nature of all of his injuries, but he was conscious (and) he was talking to rescuers.”
The ranger said search and rescue crews were “ecstatic” to find Hanks alive and alert. The victim was airlifted out of the park Thursday evening and taken to a hospital for treatment.
“Obviously, we always hope for the best, but we were getting to the point with the way the weather conditions have been, and some of the environmental concerns, it was getting critical,” Land said. “I can’t express how happy I am, and I’m sure the family is, that their loved one is going to be coming home.”
Hanks, an attorney, was described as an experienced hiker who was in good physical condition prior to suffering the injury. According to various media outlets, he lives in the East County, either in Santee or La Mesa.
In his biography for the Santee Legal Center, Hanks was described as a Rhode Island native who moved to Southern California “in pursuit of warmer weather to suit his outdoor interests.” He listed those interests as “tennis, bicycle riding, hiking, rock climbing and off-roading.”
—City News Service
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