A US Navy Blackhawk Helicopter assisted the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office this week in locating a 70-year-old man who was missing in the woods south of Highway 4 earlier this week.
Don Lombardi and his nephew were attempting to reach his cabin at Prather Meadow on Tuesday when they came upon a road closure where there had been a washout from a winter storm. Lombardi tried to find a way around it but got lost on a forest service road, according to the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office.
Low on fuel, Lombardi’s nephew hiked out of the area to get help and left Lombardi in his Chevrolet Silverado. The nephew hiked to Lombardi’s residence on Boards Crossing Road and located a neighbor that knew the area and could help them.
They went back to the location Lombardi was left with the vehicle but both were gone.
Law enforcement was contacted and a search and rescue team began looking for Lombardi.
The next morning they were joined by the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Search and Rescue and Calaveras County Search and Rescue Team in Arnold to renew the search and were assisted by a US Navy Black Hawk Helicopter that was training in the area. Helicopter crews were the first to spot Lombardi and his vehicle on a forest road near the location he was last seen.
Lombardi told rescuers that when his nephew hiked out Tuesday evening, he attempted to get out on his own with the vehicle and was mobile during the night. He somehow made it back to the road closure with his vehicle, which was damaged in the process. He could not say exactly where he went during the night.
The Navy air crew conducted a recovery and air-lifted Lombardi to the roadway near the Boards Crossing bridge where the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Search and Rescue team made a landing zone for the helicopter.
Lombardi was transferred to an ambulance and taken to Doctor’s Hospital in Modesto for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.