Dennis Klein spent his New Year’s Eve cold, wet, and sitting in the dark waiting for rescue crews after slipping off a running trail and sliding about 100 feet down a muddy slope on the side of Mount Tamalpais.
More than 50 search and rescue volunteers from seven local agencies scoured the mountain trying to find him Monday night. The California Highway Patrol pitched in with a search and rescue helicopter equipped with an infrared night vision viewer, but the tree line was too thick to see him, said Doug Pittman, spokesman for the Marin County Sheriff's Office.
Klein went for his run around 3:30 Monday afternoon. A group of Napa County deputies wearing helmet flashlights finally stumbled upon him at about 2:30 a.m. They carried him to safety, and he was able to leave by 6 a.m. Pittman said.
“It got dark so quick,” Klein said as he was resting at his Mill Valley home Tuesday night. A member of the Mill Valley Affordable Housing Committee, Klein is also an experienced trail runner. He said he enjoys being around nature, and has been jogging the route near Pantoll Trailhead for the past 41 years.
“I finally messed up,” he said.
He was running along the mountain trail on his way to catch a bus at Stinson Beach, when he slipped and slid about 100 feet downhill into a creek.
"It was a really good tumble," said his wife Lynne Klein, an art teacher at Tam High, member of the Mill Valley Arts Festival Board, and a member of the General Plan Advisory Committee's Community Vitality Working Group.
He used his cell phone to call for help and when he spotted a rescue helicopter he got up and tried but failed to flag it down, Lynne said. On his way back to where he had been sitting, he fell again on the slippery mountain and cut his right arm.
Klein weighed his options. Rather than venture out and risk more injuries in the dark, he decided to wait for help and planned to hike out in the morning if nobody came. He was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt.
Night fell much sooner than he was expecting.
“It got so dark so quickly,” he said. Normally he would have been fine but “in this case it was so dangerous.”
Klein said he knew where he was and told authorities on the 911 call, but rescue crews had trouble locating him. Sheriff's deputies from Marin, Contra Costa, Napa, Solano and San Mateo counties joined the search, as did firefighters from the Stinson Beach City and Marin County fire departments, along with The California Highway Patrol.
“It took a long time,” Klein said. But it was a great feeling to see flashlights in the early morning hours, and the deputies carried him out on a stretcher to safety. At first he refused medical treatment for the laceration to his arm, but later had it seen at a hospital at the urging of friends, his wife said.
Klein said he was thankful for the kindness of perfect strangers, and impressed by everyone’s ability to coordinate the rescue.
“I just thought it was fantastic,” he said. “It just shows the kind of people that we are.”
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