Body of Missing 22-Year-Old Hiker Found in Santa Monica Mountains

NTD Newsroom
By NTD Newsroom
February 4, 2023California
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Body of Missing 22-Year-Old Hiker Found in Santa Monica Mountains
The body of Zachary Zernik, a 22-year-old hiker who went missing last week, was found in Boney Mountain State Wilderness Park on Feb. 2, 2023. (Courtesy of Ventura County Sheriff's Office)

Authorities in Ventura County, southern California, have recovered the body of a 22-year-old man who went missing last week while hiking in Boney Peak.

The body of Zachary Zernik was found on Thursday around 9:00 a.m. local time in the Boney Mountain State Wilderness Park, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Facebook.

“His death appears accidental,” according to the sheriff’s office, which noted that there’s currently “no evidence of crime or foul play.”

Zernik’s remains were discovered in the west end of the mountainous park called Tri-Peaks, Ventura County Sheriff  Cmdr. Jeremy Paris said, the Ventura County Star reported. The area is well-known by hikers for its caves, rock formations, and porous surface that makes for great climbing.

Officials said Zernik’s cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner following an autopsy.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones,” police said.

Zernik was last seen by family members around 8 a.m. on Jan. 28, the sheriff’s office said in a missing person announcement, adding that the young man failed to show up for work on Monday and was declared missing on Wednesday.

Search efforts began after his vehicle was located at the Wendy/Potrero trailhead on Wednesday, the announcement reads. His remains were discovered the next day.

Authorities were able to narrow their search area thanks to a photo the missing hiker had sent to his friends on Jan. 28, Paris told the Ventura County Star. The picture showed Zernik atop a rock in rugged terrain, and the metadata on the image included the GPS location where it was taken.

Paris’s son attended the same class as Zernik during high school, he told the publication, adding that his son described the 22-year-old as “a great guy” who was always positive.

“The family is extremely grieved,” he said.

Boney Mountain State Wilderness is located within the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and includes a number of popular hiking trails. The highest and most prominent mountain in the area is Tri-Peaks, where Zernik’s body was discovered.

Paris advised hikers to always inform relatives and plan trips safely beforehand. Hikers are recommended to always carry essential items, such as a proper amount of food and water, the right shoes, and warm clothes, as temperatures can drop rapidly.

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