Saved by social media: Dispatcher locates injured hiker through Facebook in California
A badly injured California hiker stranded on a remote trail can thank Facebook - after a quick-thinking dispatch trainee used the social network to locate him when a 911 distress call got cut off.
Ryan Pritchard, 41, was hiking on Sunday afternoon with his sons Jake, 11, and Devon, 18, in the rugged Putah Creek State Wildlife Area near Lake Barryessa.
He slipped on a loose rock and fell 150 feet (46 metres) down a cliff, landing in a tree.
Since Devon had already gone back to their car, Jake went down the cliff, got his father’s cell phone and called 911, reaching the California Highway Patrol dispatcher.
But the call was disconnected before he could give an accurate location and efforts to call again failed.
“Because it was in our jurisdiction, they relayed it to us,” said Deputy Daryl Snedeker, spokesman for the Solano County Sheriff’s Department.
“Our dispatchers took the information and began to try to determine where the subject was.”
The cell phone coordinates didn't get them any closer.
Then a dispatch trainee, Breanna Martinez, got an idea.
“She went to Google, as everyone does these days, and Googled the guy’s name,” said Snedeker.
The search took Martinez to Ryan Pritchard’s LinkedIn page, which then led her to his Facebook page.
“I scrolled down and the very first post was a picture of his two sons and behind him was the lake, Lake Berryessa,” Martinez told CBS Sacramento.
Photos: Facebook, YouTube
That was all the information the dispatchers needed.
A CHP rescue helicopter crew found the trail, plucked Ryan from the tree and got him to UC Davis Medical Center all before darkness, said Snedeker.
Ryan was treated for several fractured bones, a head injury and a broken jaw, his family told CBS Sacramento.
The dispatchers’ boss, Solano County Sheriff Tom Ferrara, said:
“I am really impressed by this. I’m so proud of them, taking the initiative and solving the problem.
"And if you have to come up with a new way of doing it, that’s just outstanding.”