A 22-year-old rock climber from Thousand Oaks went missing over the weekend in the state wilderness area near Mount Boney. Members of the Ventura County Sheriff’s search-and-rescue squad recovered a body Thursday morning. The Medical Examiner’s Office determined early Saturday afternoon that the remains were indeed those of 22-year-old Zachary Zernik, who had set out from the Wendy/Potrero trailhead that morning.
According to Sheriff’s Cmdr. Jeremy Paris, the body was discovered at the Mount Boney Tri-Peaks area in the western Santa Monica Mountains. He added that an autopsy will be required to determine the cause of death. On Saturday, Zernik sent a photo to his friends showing him perched atop a rock in dangerous terrain. This shot helped search crews zero down on a more manageable area.
Paris claimed the photos included metadata, which contained the photographer’s GPS coordinates, which aided them narrowing in on the correct location. Before the medical examiner had confirmed the remains were Zernik’s, Paris remarked,
“It looks like it’s just a tragic accident from what we know right now,”
A member of the Zernik family was last seen on Saturday morning.
It was stated that he had been missing since Wednesday after he failed to show up to work on Monday, as indicated by data from the sheriff’s department. Paris reported that in addition to 30 SAR personnel, search dogs, a sheriff’s helicopter, and a plane equipped with infrared technology from the California Office of Emergency Services, the search also made use of satellite imagery.
The search was conducted by the East Valley SAR Team, the Upper Ojai SAR Team, and the Fillmore Mountain SAR Team, all of which are volunteer organizations managed by the Sheriff’s Office. About 40 residents of the neighborhood got up first thing on Thursday to lend a hand. On Wednesday afternoon, the sheriff’s office put out a need for the community’s assistance.
Paris expressed appreciation for the group’s assistance. “We’re really grateful for that,” he exclaimed. Apparently, Brad, Paris’s son, and Zernik were high school classmates in Thousand Oaks. His kid spoke highly of the ex-classmate, characterizing him as an upbeat, pleasant person. Paris added that he has spoken with Zernik’s loved ones.
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“The family is extremely grieved,” he said. According to Paris, the family has not made any sort of public remark. According to his Facebook page, Zernik graduated from Thousand Oaks High School in 2018. He went on to study bioengineering at UCLA. The approximately 400 kilometers he had hiked by 2019 helped him obtain the Eagle Scout award. Ben Kuo, a Newbury Park resident and expert in satellite photography, heard of Zernik’s disappearance and went to the trailhead from which he had departed.
It is with great sadness that at about 9am, Zachary Zernik was located deceased in Boney Mountain State Wilderness Park. Death appears accidental. No evidence of crime or foul play. Cause of death will be determined by the ME’s Office. Prayers to his loved ones. pic.twitter.com/szKkaG6wcJ
— Ventura County Sheriff (@VENTURASHERIFF) February 2, 2023
After using satellite photography to help the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department find a missing hiker in Angeles National Forest in 2021, Kuo happened into a group of Zernik’s buddies, who proudly displayed the missing hiker’s automobile for Kuo. According to Kuo, the location of the photo Zernik shared with friends was further into the Mount Boney State Wilderness Area than the Upper Cabin Trailhead.
The ground is “dicey,” in Kuo’s words, but there are some interesting rocks there. According to Paris, it’s not apparent which path Zernik took. Paris advised hikers to always let others know their plans before setting out and to bring a jacket because evenings might get chilly.
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