San Bernardino County honors L.A. County Sheriff’s first responders for efforts in search for rescuer

LOS ANGELES — Five first responders with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department were presented with a Medal of Valor from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department on Tuesday for their efforts in the search and recovery operation of an SBSD member who died while searching for a missing hiker from Irvine on Mount Baldy in December 2019.

Undersheriff Dicus, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department presents the Medal of Valor to #LASD Air Rescue 5 crew members for daring snow/ice rescue/recovery of two San Bernardino SD SAR members during inclement weather at high altitude on Mt Baldy. Saving lives priority 1.

— SEB (@SEBLASD) April 27, 2021


Undersheriff Shannon Dicus of the SBSD presented the medals to Los Angeles County Air Rescue 5 Crew members Deputies Todd Kocisko, Scott Helbing, Steve Pratt and Jennifer Shepard and Sgt. Dave Carver for their bravery during the operation.

The five crew members were searching for SBSD Search and Rescue member Timothy Staples. The 32-year-old Staples was one of 126 people across 23 teams searching for Sreenivas “Sree” Mokkapati, who was reported missing on Dec. 8, 2019, after becoming separated from his group while ascending Mount Baldy.

Staples’ partner had alerted the Sheriff’s Department that he had become separated from Staples.

“Despite inclement weather conditions and treacherous terrain, members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Air Rescue 5 helicopter crew located Staples in an area of ice and snow,” the LASD said. “He was unresponsive, and a crew member lowered to Staples determined he was dead.

“Even though the operation turned into a recovery, the crew’s efforts still demonstrate the dangerous working conditions search and rescue personnel face every day.”

Staples was a teacher at Damien High School in La Verne, an all-male Catholic school. Mokkapati’s remains were eventually recovered and identified in June 2020.

Our most sincere gratitude & appreciation to @sbcountysheriff for presenting @SEBLASD Air Rescue 5 Crew with the Medal of Valor. The hope, the mission, the priority has always been to Save Lives. Please accept our deepest thanks.

— LA County Sheriffs (@LASDHQ) April 27, 2021

“In my opinion, the LASD has one of the best search and rescue programs in the nation, and the flight deputies and crew of Air 5 are the cream of the crop,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who attended Tuesday’s ceremony in Los Angeles.

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