A rescue operation on Castle Rock for a stranded hiker turned into a recovery Dec. 28, after search crews located the body of a stranded Brooklyn, N.Y., man.
A number of agencies searched for the stranded hiker, Mahdi Harrizi, 21, beginning Dec. 27, after family members reported him lost in an area near the Village of Oak Creek. The family was vacationing at a local resort and were in contact with the stranded hiker via cell phone.
Authorities believe Harrizi later attempted to climb down himself and fell to his death from a cliff face. The body was recovered Dec. 28, according to Dwight D’Evelyn, spokesman for the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office.
“[Crews] found that he had fallen off a ledge. That was the issue, apparently, was that he was stuck and didn’t know which way to go. It appears, after he made it known he was stranded, he tried to get down off the mountain and fell, possibly 150 feet,” D’Evelyn said.
Crews searched for Harrizi throughout the night Dec. 27.
“We got a call [Dec, 27] at 3:40 p.m.,” D’Evelyn said. “Initial reports said the 21-year-old male had been hiking and apparently became stranded on a ledge and contacted his mom via cell phone. That generated a call to us.
“We came out, formed up and have basically been trying to locate him ever since. There’s quite a bit of family with him, including his mother.”
During the evening hours, search crews reported a number of possible sightings that did not result in Harrizi's rescue, D’Evelyn said. Authorities were also unable to track his location via his cell phone.
“The method we use to GPS it doesn’t work too well,” he said, adding Harrizi’s cell carrier gets little reception in the area.
Search crews also used infrared equipment, but were still unable to locate Harrizi. A ground search, D’Evelyn said, can be very difficult in rocky terrain.
Although it has not been determined when Harrizi fell, the lack of any contact with him in the early stages of the search may indicate he attempted to move and fell shortly after the phone conversation with his mother, D’Evelyn said. Final determination on cause and time of death will be determined by the Yavapai County Medical Examiner.
A number of agencies filled a parking lot near the search area Dec. 28. Personnel from YCSO Response Team, a Yavapai County Jeep team, Coconino County Search and Rescue, Guardian Air, Arizona Department of Public Safety and Guidance Helicopters responded to the initial search and rescue effort.
“This tragic incident is a reminder that the beauty of rugged mountains in this area can deceive persons to access places where it may be difficult to safely escape if stranded,” D’Evelyn said. “Another hiker died earlier this year from a fall in the nearby Sedona wilderness. YCSO search experts recommend that if you become stranded on a ledge, do not move, maintain communication if possible, and let rescue personnel come to you as they are best equipped to provide your safe return.”