During what was supposed to be a casual hike on a vacation in Oregon, Austin firefighter Devin Paez fell and got lost before being rescued 18 hours later.
Between 50 and 80 people searched for Paez overnight. They found him about seven miles from where he was last seen.
"We got notified he's found," friend, hiking buddy and fellow Austin Fire Department firefighter Matt Grube said. "First question I had, [was he] found alive?”
"I should've probably just stayed with my group, that was the biggest mistake I made," Paez said.
Paez and a few other firefighter friends were hiking Larch Mountain in Oregon on Thursday, August 25, when Paez left the group to retrieve his backpack. He had left it halfway down the mountain, but he didn't tell his friends he was leaving.
When it was time to leave the summit, his friends searched for Paez, backtracking down the trail. They couldn't find him. It was dark and the woods were dense.
"We called 911 and said 'Hey, we have a guy that's missing'," Grube said.
"What was going through my mind is not letting my people down, my friends down and just getting home, back in one piece," Paez said.
He had taken the wrong trail back and fell down a 40-foot cliff. He wasn't hurt badly, so he started looking for water and an open space. During the dark overnight hours, it wasn't snakes or mountain lions he worried about.
"I think my biggest fear was just upsetting my mom," Paez said.
The friends learned some lessons about hiking and about themselves.
"I never knew my impact as a firefighter or a rescuer. So now I understand what we're really here for," Paez said.
"I just found out that I'm really where I'm supposed to be at now," Grube said.
Paez and Grube have a few new hiking rules:
- Don't leave the group or your supplies behind.
- Carry a whistle or walkie-talkies.
Have a map.
(© 2016 KVUE)