iPhone’s Emergency SOS Saves 10 Teenage Hikers Lost in Southern California

A group of young hikers who went missing near Ojai managed to call for help with Apple's Emergency SOS, which the company introduced with the iPhone 14 last year.

Photo: Ventura County Sheriff's Office

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The iPhone’s new Emergency SOS feature apparently helped save 10 teenage hikers who had to call for rescue after becoming lost on a dayhike in southern California.

In a report, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said the hikers had gone missing near the Last Chance Trail in Santa Paula Canyon, outside of Ojai. Around 8 p.m., the sheriff’s office received a text message from the hikers through their phone’s Emergency SOS system, informing officials that the hikers were unable to find their way back to the trailhead. Around the same time, the hikers’ guardians contacted Ventura County sheriff’s deputies near the trailhead to report the hikers overdue.

Around 8:30 p.m., a group of 13 volunteers from the department’s Upper Ojai Search and Rescue Team set out on the trail to locate the hikers. Conditions were rough according to the report, with the department saying that searchers faced “low visibility, multiple stream crossings and trails that had been previously damaged from the heavy rains.” Finally, around 11:15 p.m., the rescuers located the missing teens.

“Most of the hikers were not prepared for the hike and were provided with food, drinking water and lighting equipment as they were led out to the Santa Paula Canyon Trailhead,” the department wrote. The group arrived at the trailhead at 2:40 a.m. None of the rescued hikers required medical assistance. 

Satellite emergency beacons have assisted thousands of people in calling for rescue over the past 15 years, but some experts have voiced concern that the devices could encourage hikers to cut corners in their preparations, instead assuming that they’ll be able to call for help in an emergency. 

“[Satellite beacons] are a valuable tool, but they shouldn’t be used as a substitute for common sense,” Charley Shimanski, vice president of the Mountain Rescue Association, told the New York Times after the launch of the first SPOT device in 2007. It remains to be seen how the introduction of Apple Emergency SOS, which debuted on the iPhone 14 last year and allows users to send satellite-borne text messages to emergency services via an Apple-run response center, will affect the volume of emergency calls that search and rescue teams handle.


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