On February 05, 2006 at about 9:00 p.m. the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office received a report that two men had not returned from a day trip on the VanDuzen River. It was reported that Bridgeville residents Vernon Smith, 44, and his son Lonnie, 19, had planned to take a rubber raft onto the river to salvage logs. When the two failed to return, relatives notified the Sheriff’s Office.
At about 1:30 this morning Vernon’s truck was located at the Carlotta Grange. At about 7:00 a.m. search and rescue efforts began. From the bluffs in Hydesville, Sheriff’s Deputies spotted a yellow object in the river. The US Coast Guard flew a helicopter over the area and confirmed the object was a partially submerged rubber raft. The Coast Guard continued to search the area from the air while the Sheriff’s Posse was called out to conduct a ground search.
At about 10:00 a.m. the Sheriff’s Office received a call telling us that the missing men had contacted their family. A few minutes later deputies spoke with the men and confirmed they were safe. The father and son reported that their rubber raft had struck an object in the river yesterday and sunk. They had been able to make it to shore, although they found themselves trapped on the wrong side of the river. They spent the night in a ranch house and this morning made their way to a local rancher’s property where they were given a ride to their vehicle. Both men were reportedly cold and hungry but otherwise uninjured.