A rescue operation in the Salt Creek area of Three Rivers turned fatal for a Tulare County teenager who was within weeks of graduating from high school. On Friday, May 15, a 911 call for help was received at 6:22 p.m. from the Salt Creek environs where a companion of the victim reported that a fall had occurred.
A California Highway Patrol helicopter was summoned and upon locating the injured hiker, an advanced life support medic was lowered to the scene to assess the situation. It was determined that the victim, who has since been identified as Brandon Mendez, 18, of Exeter, had fallen approximately 50 feet from the top of the falls. (There are two waterfalls in line of sight at just over two miles from the Skyline Drive trailhead. Apparently the victim fell from the tallest of the two falls, which is the first one that comes into view across the steep canyon.) Hiker dies in Salt Creek
The medic reported that the victim was critically injured and needed to be airlifted. By this time, Kyle Stark, Three Rivers resident deputy, had hiked in to assist at the scene. It was getting dark, too dark for the CHP helicopter to risk a hoist in the steep terrain.
Helicopters with state-of-the-art night vision technology are stationed at Lemoore Naval Air Station. These military helicopters can fly anywhere in just about any weather and often assist in search-and-rescue operations.
Members of Naval Air Station Lemoore’s Search and Rescue detachment were deployed and conducted the night-time rescue. Shortly after midnight, a litter was lowered and the victim and medic were extracted. Hiker dies in Salt Creek
The victim was flown to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno where he succumbed to his injuries at 1:48 a.m. on Saturday, May 16.
Brandon was a senior at Exeter High School where he was set to graduate in a couple weeks. A GoFundMe account has been set up to assist with funeral expenses.
In an effort to reduce community spread of coronavirus, the BLM-Salt Creek recreation area and the Skyline Drive parking area have been closed to the public since Saturday, April 4, 2020.
Hiker dies in Salt Creek