After becoming lost during a hike in the mountains around Los Angeles, a missing hiker was found on Tuesday thanks to rescuers pinpointing his location based on a photo he texted before becoming stranded.
46-year-old hiker Rene Compean became lost while trying to make his way to the highest point of the Mount Waterman area within the San Gabriel Mountains in the Angeles National Forest, about 40 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles.
Realizing that he was in need of help, Compean texted a friend a photo of his legs dangling over a peak with a view of his location in the distance. He knew he was in trouble, as his phone was dying and he had no clear path toward a way out.
The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department initiated a rescue mission Monday evening after being contacted by the friend Compean texted, according to NBC Los Angeles. LASD sought the help of civilians online to try to identify the location of the hiker based on the photo.
One helpful tipster was successfully able to identify Compean's location, tracking him down on his laptop from miles away.
Benjamin Kuo responded to the LASD's plea for help hours later, with near exact coordinates of the lost hiker's location.
"I've got a very weird hobby, which is, I love taking a look at photos and figuring out where they're taken," Kuo told NBC Los Angeles.
LASD Sgt. John Gilbert said that Kuo's information was a good clue and worth the investigation.
"So that's when we asked our Air Rescue 5 to go and check out that area and see if they saw anything, lo and behold we were able to find him," Gilbert said.
Weather on the mountain was cloudy on Tuesday, and Compean thinks he got lost in the first place due to a possible wildfire that had happened in the area where he was hiking, burning down signs and forcing him toward a wrong turn.
Compean, relieved to be found safely, wasn't certain he'd be so lucky. Before his phone died, he sent a message to his friend with one last photo of his location, saying, "Love you, if I don't make it."
Connected with his online rescuer for the first time on Tuesday, Compean thanked Kuo, saying, "I crazy appreciate what you did...I really don't know if I could make it there another day. It was just so cold."