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Rescue crews start a new search for actor Julian Sands after recovering another hiker

Police say they're changing their tactics in a search for actor Julian Sands, who went missing 13 days ago in Southern California's San Gabriel Mountains.

Sands, the 65-year-old star of several Oscar-nominated films including A Room with a View, disappeared on Jan. 13 while hiking around snow-covered Mt. Baldy.

Search and rescue crews began looking for Sands about a mile southwest of the mountain's peak after cell phone pings suggested he was on a known trail. But high winds and avalanche risks have led to pauses in the efforts.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Office announced Wednesday that the search will continue "by air only" using RECCO technology, which can detect "reflective material, electronics and, in some cases, credit cards."

The change in approach came just a day after crews were able to locate another missing hiker. Jin Chung, a 75-year-old Los Angeles man, was found one day after he was reported missing; he suffered leg and weather-related injuries, police said.

Though only about 40 miles northeast of Los Angeles, Mt. Baldy is known for relatively cold and wet winters. The region's nighttime temperatures have dropped as low as 29 degrees in the last week.

Search and rescue teams on Mt. Baldy, the highest peak among the San Gabriel Mountains, have conducted 233 missions since 2017, with eight fatalities.
Richard Vogel / AP
Search and rescue teams have conducted 233 missions since 2017, with eight fatalities, on Mt. Baldy, the highest peak among the San Gabriel Mountains.

"Exposure to the elements and falls contribute to Mt. Baldy's growing mortality rate," police wrote in a search update earlier this week. Search and rescue teams have conducted 233 missions on Mt. Baldy since 2017, with eight fatalities.

A search-and-rescue crew member was among those who died on the mountain, prompting former Sheriff John McMahon to meet with members of Congress about increasing weather closures in 2019.

Along with the surrounding San Gabriel region, Mt. Baldy is unincorporated, technically falling under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture and United States Forest Service.

The sheriff of neighboring San Bernardino County implied in a statement that it couldn't lend more resources to the search for Sands due to "deficits in USFS staffing, resources and funding."

The office said it was working with legislators to try to secure more funding for the USFS in order to implement a permit process for local hikers and boost wilderness education.

Representatives for Sands did not immediately respond to NPR's request for further information.

The English-born actor, who resides in North Hollywood, is best known for starring in the 1985 British romance A Room with a View.

Throughout the '80s and '90s, he filled title roles in films such as Warlock, Arachnophobia, Leaving Las Vegas, Boxing Helena and The Killing Fields.

In recent years, he continued to appear in dozens of minor television and feature film roles spanning from low-budget fringe favorites to highly acclaimed hits.

When asked in 2020 by The Guardian when he was at his happiest, Sands spoke not about acting, but about recreating.

"Close to a mountain summit on a glorious cold morning," was his reply.

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Emily Olson
Emily Olson is on a three-month assignment as a news writer and live blog editor, helping shape NPR's digital breaking news strategy.