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Avid hiker found dead in Angeles National Forest

Trails are difficult in aftermath of Station fire, according to Sheriff's official.

March 07, 2012|By Daniel Siegal, daniel.siegal@latimes.com

A 76-year-old hiker who was reported missing Monday morning was found dead Monday afternoon in the Switzer Falls campground area of the Angeles National Forest.

The body of Richard Derusha, of Bellflower, was located by Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies around 4:25 p.m., L.A. County coroner’s officials confirmed. His body was recovered on Tuesday, as darkness prevented a helicopter from being used on Monday night, and the body’s location was too remote for it to be carried out by rescue personnel.

Burakowski said Derusha, an avid hiker, was reported overdue for his return by his family after he failed to return from his hike.

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Montrose Search and Rescue searched throughout Monday for Derusha in the Bear Canyon area, near Switzer Falls. Derusha was supposed to return home on Saturday or Sunday, said Sgt. Sue Burakowski of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Reserve Forces Bureau on Monday.

Derusha's Oldsmobile minivan was found parked at the campground, deputies said.

Hikers have been encountering difficulties because the trails are not in optimal condition due to the 2009 Station fire and subsequent washouts, Burakowski said.

“There has been serious washout on the trails, so people have been getting stuck,” she said. “This guy is an avid hiker, so it might be one of those cases where he got his bearings turned around, because the trails are really hard to identify right now.”

Burakowski said that on Sunday night, Montrose Search and Rescue found and assisted two mountain bikers who got stuck while attempting to reach the old JPL trail, which is no longer in existence due to the 2009 fire.

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