Missing Man Found on Peak of Santa Ysabel Mountain

Michael Dale Zeller has been transported to Palomar Hospital, hypothermic but responsive.

Search and rescue teams from several agencies scoured hillsides for a 39-year-old missing man — Michael Dale Zeller — on Santa Ysabel Mountain Sunday. At least 50 volunteers came from all over the county to help.

Zeller was found by the Sheriff's ASTREA helicopeter at about 4,600 feet at about 2 pm Sunday. He was reported to be stumbling and disoriented.

Sheriff's Sgt. Don Parker said that Zeller had called the Sheriff's Department at 4:06 Sunday morning saying he was lost, cold and hungry in the Santa Ysabel Indian Reservation.

When found, he was wearing jeans and a light jacket and was hypothermic, Parker said. However, he said Zeller was responsive.

Zeller was given medical treatment and transported by Julian/Cuyamaca Fire Department to Palomar Hospital at about 2:20 pm.

The Sheriff's Department ASTREA helicopter flew over the Schoolhouse Canyon Road area between Santa Ysabel and Warner Springs and teams searched on the ground. Zeller's vehicle was found at lower elevations of the mountain earlier in the day. Parker reported that Zeller had visited an acquaintance there.

Zeller called the Sheriff's Communications Center by cell phone from a remote part of the Santa Ysabel Indian Reservation, according to a special bulletin released Sunday morning by the Sheriff's Department. Authorities said he told them he became lost while hiking on Santa Ysabel Peak. The Sheriff's Department was able to do some tracking because of the cell phone, Parker said.

Two volunteer search and rescue teams operated under the Sheriff's Department were involved in the effort. The Border Patrol's BORSTAR unit also participated. Among the volunteers were Clark Corbin from Ramona, a retired Fountain Valley policeman, and Rick Osgood, of Poway, who works in the construction industry.

The search effort was based out of the parking lot of Don's Market, at the corner of Highways 78 and 79 in Santa Ysabel.

Update: As of Tuesday, Zeller is listed in fair condition at Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, said a hospital spokesman, Andy Hoang.


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