Body Found in Montecito Area Where Authorities Are Searching for Missing L.A. County Fire Captain

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A man’s dead body was found Saturday in an area of Montecito where authorities have been searching for a missing L.A. County fire captain after he was reported missing earlier this week, officials said.

While the body was found near the search site, authorities have not confirmed it’s the fire captain’s body.

A frantic search for the missing captain, Wayne Stuart Habell, was launched by his family, friends and colleagues after he was last seen leaving his home in Newhall on Monday. At the time, he was believed to be heading to the L.A. Fitness gym in Stevenson Ranch, as Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Adam Clint told KTLA.

Wayne Stuart Habell and his truck are shown in photos released by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department on Aug. 16, 2018.
Wayne Stuart Habell and his truck are shown in photos released by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on Aug. 16, 2018.

On Friday, authorities had found a black Chrysler Aspen SUV registered to Habell in a rural area of Montecito around 2 p.m., according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office. The SUV was reported to have been parked in the area of Hot Springs Trailhead since Monday.

The solo occupant of the SUV “was last seen walking up the trailhead,” sheriff’s officials said.

Search and rescue teams were dispatched to the area shortly after but were not able to find Habell. Since it was too dark to continue the search efforts through Friday night, authorities called them off until the early morning hours of Saturday.

Later in the day, about 6 p.m., a dead body was found in the canyon in the area, sheriff’s officials said, though an autopsy still has to be performed to identify the body.

Habell was reported missing after last being seen leaving his Newhall home earlier this week. His loved ones and fellow firefighters were distressed as they continued looking for him.

“His wife and family are devastated,” Clint said in an email at the time.

When the 43-year-old fire captain’s loved ones couldn’t track him down, his colleagues at the fire department got involved in the search — expressing concern over his sudden disappearance.

“We are all devastated, not just his immediate family, but his brothers and sisters here in Los Angeles County Fire Department,” Inspector Gustavo Medina told KTLA earlier this week. “All we want is for him to get home safe.”

The department used some of its resources to try tracking down Habell in the Santa Clarita Valley, Medina said.

Habell, a father of three, has been with the department for 13 years, authorities said.

No other details have been released by authorities.

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