Friday, March 31, 2023

Mendocino County Search and Rescue Successfully Locates and Rescues Missing Coast Runner Found in Critical Condition


The following is a post from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Facebook page. For full disclosure, I, Matt LaFever, am a member of Mendocino County Search and Rescue and the creator of their social media content:

A Mendocino Coast woman was reported missing while on a run at Russian Gulch State Park on Friday, July 24, 2021, That afternoon, Mendocino County Search and Rescue volunteers successfully located the missing woman in remote terrain, in critical condition. SAR Commander Jared Chaney said if it was not for the three searchers who found her, she very well could have not survived.

A press release from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office indicates 55-year-old Joyce Diane Smith was missing since Thursday morning at approximately 10:00 a.m. The reporting party indicated Smith frequented the Seaside Beach and Russian Gulch area where she said she would be running.

Yesterday morning, MCSO deputies located Smith’s vehicle and thus initiated MCSO Search and Rescue protocols

Commander Chaney said SAR deployed at approximately 1:30 p.m. yesterday utilizing two ground teams, an all-terrain vehicle team, an area dog team, and a trailing dog team to track down the missing woman.

Before deploying, Commander Chaney and SAR personnel spoke with local park rangers to understand the topography of the Russian Gulch State Park identifying areas where someone might fall down and not be visible to other hikers. They also examined the missing woman’s habits, her favorite trailheads, and other characteristics that might help them in their search. 

The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office press release indicated Smith was located alive at approximately 4:15 p.m. and flown out of the area for medical evaluation/treatment.

Commander Chaney praised the ground team who located Smith lying in a creek bed in dire medical straits. They acted quickly wrapping the woman in a space blanket and clothing to warm her. 

At that point, collaborating with Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department personnel, Smith was carried one-and-a-half miles over tough terrain using a stokes basket and flown to a hospital. 

Commander Chaney, reflecting on yesterday’s successful rescue, emphasized the importance of a good ground team willing to hike where others might not go to help others in need.

Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue would like to express their appreciation for Sea Pal Cove restaurant in Fort Bragg. After the successful search and rescue, team members celebrated their find at the local eatery and were humbled when the restaurant provided a 50% discount to the team. 

Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team would like to thank the other agencies that assisted in the successful location and rescue of Smith including Mendocino Fire, CalStar, California State Parks, Cal-Fire, and the California Highway Patrol.



  1. Nice job! As a Outdoor education instructor and former first responder I know how taxing such a rescue can be. That feeling of time being critical for a life to be saved is a heavy burden. Thankfully they found her in time, Being in a that creek bed it would not take long for her core temperature to drop into dangerous levels. Nice job to all involved including her, as she had left enough information for people to fine her.

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFever
I like to think of myself as a reporter for the Average Joe. Journalism has become a craft defined largely by city dwellers on America's coasts. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at if you know a story that needs to be told.

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