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Woman goes missing during Inyo County camping excursion

A hiker reported missing July 12 was found alive Monday in Inyo County, the sheriff’s office there reported.

Searchers described Sheryl Powell “resilient and strong but exhausted after being lost in an extremely remote area above Big Pine, California,” the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post on July 15.

Powell was met at the Bishop Airport by ambulance and will be taken to a local hospital for medical clearance, the sheriff’s office said.

“We are beyond grateful for the continued support from her family, local residents, visitors, and the media,” the sheriff’s office added. “We also cannot thank our assisting agencies enough for their amazingly hard work in difficult terrain throughout this four-day search.”

She later told NBC News that she got lost fleeing a knife-wielding man who threatened her near her campsite in the remote White Mountains.

Appearing on the Today show, Powell said a “burly” man had confronted her while she was taking a bathroom break. “According to Powell, the man said, ‘The first thing that’s going to happen here, I’m going to use this knife on the dog, and then if you don’t let me have my way with you, I’ll use it on you,’” NBC reported on its website.

As stated in an Inyo County Sheriff’s Office news release, the woman, identified as Powell, 60, of Huntington Beach, California, was reported missing by her husband on July 12.

Both were camping in the Bristlecone Pine Forest area of Grandview Campground, Inyo County officials said.

“After selecting a remote campsite, Sheryl Powell exited the vehicle to take their dog out for a bathroom break while Mr. Powell re-positioned their Jeep,” the release stated. “Mr. Powell could not locate Mrs. Powell or their dog once he parked the Jeep. After searching for almost an hour, Mr. Powell alerted law enforcement through his satellite device.”

Mrs. Powell was described as an experienced hiker.

The small dog, located 2.5 miles from Powell’s last known location, was found safe on Monday morning, July 15.

The release also stated that Inyo County Search and Rescue and Inyo County Sheriff’s deputies began searching immediately after receiving the notification on July 12.

“Challenges include multiple gullies, shale slopes, low shade, direct sun, and rattlesnakes,” the release stated. “Grandview Campground is located at 8,600 feet and is the closest campground to the ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.”

On Tuesday evening, July 16, the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement that said it had met with Sheryl Powell

“Mrs. Powell’s recounting of events leading up to her disappearance involve being approached by an unknown suspect with a knife, the suspect threatening her and her dog with the knife, the suspect making a sexual remark, then her running away from the suspect and ultimately getting lost,” the statement read.

“We are asking that the public be on the lookout for anyone matching the following description: under 6 feet, 180 pounds, bald/shiny head, dark eyes, brown eyebrows, white male but with tanned skin, potentially with a Southern accent, around 50 years old, no visible tattoos, stocky, dark-colored backpack, dark green button-up shirt with long sleeves, dark-colored pants, armed with a 6-8 inch bladed knife with a dark-colored handle,” the statement went on to say.

The sheriff’s office said that “now that Mrs. Powell has been rescued and is back with her family, our primary concern is public safety. Short of Mrs. Powell’s eyewitness account of the suspect, there have been no other reports of someone matching this description or incidents reported in Inyo County that are similar to this.”

The investigation is continuing. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office at 760-878-0383, option 4.

Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at sharris@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes

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