Story of Botched Mountain Search By PCSO Aired By ABC 15 Investigators

Chris Hensley and his two daughters, Alexa and Alyssa. Hensley died in April after he fell from a rock in the Superstition Wilderness.
Chris Hensley and his two daughters, Alexa and Alyssa. Hensley died in April after he fell from a rock in the Superstition Wilderness.

ABC 15 Investigator Dave Biscobing aired a story this week featuring the Superstition Search and Rescue, an all-volunteer team of wildness heroes that has successfully brought closure to families when the Pinal County Sheriff's Office's search-and-rescue team could not.

"Lost," a New Times feature in December 2012 delved into why SSAR parted ways with Sheriff Paul Babeu, including concerns by search volunteers that sheriff's command staff had little regard for safety.

See also: - Paul Babeu Sticks It to Taxpayers and a Volunteer Rescue Team - Babeu's "Elite" Staff Overcomes Bad Behavior with Loyalty The break has proven a huge loss for the community because for decades SSAR worked alongside the sheriff's office and charged nothing for its services.

Not one penny out of taxpayers pockets, yet the team proved itself time and again.

The latest news spot focused on Chris Hensley, a rock climber who went missing on April 15. PCSO and other search volunteers scoured the desert and mountains for more than 800 collective hours but turned up nothing. Frustrated family members discovered SSAR and asked for the team's help. SSAR found Hensley's body just two hours after they started their search on April 19.

Chris Hensley and his daughters at the Grand Canyon.
Chris Hensley and his daughters at the Grand Canyon.

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It's unclear whether Hensley could have survived the fall had he been found sooner. There was evidence at the scene that he had moved from the area of impact and tried to find shade under a nearby bush. He did not die immediately.

The ABC 15 segment featured chilling video from a memory card that fell out of Hensley's camera when he slipped off a massive rock. Spotting that tiny card in a sea of wilderness was yet another remarkable find by SSAR when they later took Tony to the spot where her husband's remains had been found.

For New Times' May coverage of that botched search for Hensley and how the couple's two young daughters were dealing with their father's disappearance, read "Dead or Alive? Paul Babeu's Wilderness-Rescue Unit Once Again Proves Inept."

Tonya Hensley has filed a $5 million claim against the Pinal County Sheriff's Office in connection with her husband's death.

Tim Gaffney, a spokesman for PCSO, sent New Times the following canned quote:

"PCSO Search and Rescue team is a nationally recognized and certified team that conducts hundreds of successful missions each year. The facts and evidence surrounding this case are contrary to how Ms. Hensley has portrayed them through the media and now with this lawsuit. As with any pending civil litigation it would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this time."

Hundreds of missions each year?

Consider that on December 12, 2012, Gaffney sent out a press release that stated: "During 2010, PCSO SAR team and posse responded to 46 calls for missing or injured hikers, during 2011, they responded to 137 calls, and during 2012 so far there have been 130 calls."

 

Watch the ABC 15 coverage:


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