Footprints lead to "miracle" discovery of two hikers missing for days in snowy SoCal mountains

/ CBS/AP

Mount Baldy Village, Calif. — Two hikers who vanished in snowy Southern California mountains were found safe Wednesday by rescuers who spent days searching the rugged terrain.

Gabrielle Wallace, 31, of Rancho Cucamonga and Eric Desplinter, 33, of Chino Hills went missing Saturday in the San Gabriel Mountains, some 45 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

A search team found two sets of footprints in Cucamonga Canyon, south of Mount Baldy, and followed them. A helicopter sent to the area spotted two people near a campfire, according to a statement from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

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It said the two would be flown to the Mount Baldy fire station to be reunited with their families, and paramedics would determine whether they need further treatment.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which helped with the search, described the pair as being "safely" located but there were no immediate details on their conditions:

#LASD proudly assisted @sbcountysheriff in a successful search & rescue of two missing hikers. They were located safely and will be reunited with their loved ones. pic.twitter.com/aCAR8sGcj8

— LA County Sheriff's (@LASDHQ) April 11, 2019

"Miracles happen, and this is a miracle," Mike Leum, of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, said in a tweet.

The hikers vanished while heading toward the 8,860-foot Cucamonga Peak near Mount Baldy. Desplinter was described as an experienced hiker and the two were carrying proper equipment for the icy conditions.

Search-and-rescue teams from six counties volunteered to help comb some 30 square miles of the mountains, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

Brenda Wallace, Gabrille's mother, told CBS Los Angeles Desplinter is Gabrielle's boss. She said her daughter recently purchased all her hiking gear for this trip with a large group of friends.

She added the two were hiking with a group when they became separated and never made it back to the car. "I know he wouldn't leave her and she wouldn't leave him," Wallace said.

First published on April 11, 2019 / 2:52 AM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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