Search-and-rescue crews discovered the body of missing hiker Tim Sgrignoli on Thursday morning, the fifth day they had hunted high and low for signs of the Ventura man in the hope of finding him alive.
But despite their best efforts, and those of multiple K-9 dogs and personnel flying helicopters and drones, it was not to be.
“We found the missing hiker deceased about 9:20 this morning,” Cmdr. Erik Raney of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office told the News-Press.
“He was found by one of the search teams dispatched to a specific area.” Cmdr. Raney said. “He was located 20 feet off the freeway just north of the Gaviota Tunnel.”
At this point, the Santa Barbara County Coroner’s Office has taken over the investigation in terms of determining the cause and manner of death, he said. The office staff were called to the scene and took possession of the young man’s body.
Cmdr. Raney said the coroner’s investigation could take three weeks.
“Obviously heat was a related factor, but we don’t have any other information,” he said.
Mr. Sgrignoli’s family, who live in Florida, and his girlfriend, who lived with him in Ventura, were at the scene Thursday as they have been all week when they received the news that he hadn’t made it.
“Obviously they were devastated,” Cmdr. Raney said.
Also devastated were the dozens of search-and-rescue workers from Santa Barbara County and their counterparts from other counties who spent so much time searching for the missing hiker despite the heat wave and rugged terrain.
Cmdr. Raney praised Mr. Sgrignoli’s family and girlfriend for being so supportive of the search-and-rescue teams, from giving them food and water to volunteering to participate in the search themselves.
Mr. Sgrignoli went missing Sunday after he left his girlfriend to find their car and get supplies and summon help, after she succumbed to the excessive heat. He gave her his remaining water and cell phone.
She called 9-1-1 and rescue workers found her. She was treated later for mild heat exhaustion, but her boyfriend went missing.
They had hiked up the Trespass Trail before reaching the summit of the Gaviota Peak, and they had started back down again when they ran into trouble, officials said.
Searchers speculated that Mr. Sgrignoli might have taken a shortcut back to the car and gotten lost, or suffered heat exhaustion, too, or fallen and injured himself.