A 78-year-old man who had been missing in the Chumash Wilderness area of Ventura County for two days has been rescued, authorities announced on Tuesday.  

Calls about Balaji Keshava’s disappearance came in at around 3 p.m. on Aug. 5, officials with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department said.  

According to investigators, Keshava had been hiking with a group of individuals when he somehow became separated from the group near Grouse Mountain.

“Dispatchers were able to determine Balaji’s general location using information gathered from the cell phone call he placed after dialing 911,” a VCSO news release stated.  

Members of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team, assisted by a Kern County Sheriff’s Office helicopter, began their search in the area of Cerro Noroeste where a trailhead was located. The teams searched through the night, even deploying a Ventura County helicopter equipped with a thermal imaging camera.  

The following day, on Aug. 6, search and rescue team members continued the search at altitudes of more than 8,000 feet in unforgiving terrain, officials said. The Ventura County aviation unit continued to assist, airlifting personnel into the backcountry. An estimated 35 members of the team, including searchers and coordinators, were involved in the effort.  

The search for the 78-year-old resumed early Monday, Aug. 7. At around 11 a.m., a member of the search and rescue team spotted Keshava on a south-facing aspect of Grouse Mountain in good condition.

Missing 78-year-old hiker found
Balaji Keshava, 78, was rescued after getting lost and spending two days in the Chumash Wilderness area of Ventura County. (VCSO)

He was airlifted from the location, treated by a flight paramedic aboard the helicopter and flown to a nearby hospital for additional care.  

The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office urges hikers who become lost to call 911 immediately and stay where they are. They should not move unless the location becomes unsafe. This will help rescue teams locate hikers easier. 

Lost hikers are also advised to do the following: 

  • Close or avoid using cellphone apps that use GPS if your cell phone battery is running low 
  • Avoid using the cell phone as a primary light source at night 
  • Take an external power bank for your cellphone if possible 
  • Let others know where you plan on hiking and when you expect to return 
  • Be aware of weather conditions 
  • Take plenty of water 

“Being prepared and having a few simple essentials could save your life,” the release noted.