CASCADE LOCKS, Ore. – Rescue crews on Friday found a Texas firefighter who was missing overnight in the Columbia River Gorge.
Devin Paez, a 26-year-old firefighter from Austin, Texas, disappeared from his group on Larch Mountain Thursday afternoon. Search & Rescue was called out to Wahkeena Falls in the Columbia River Gorge about 2 a.m. Friday to help find him.
He had last been seen in the Sherrard Point area.
According to his group, Paez decided to head back down the trail ahead of the group and left behind his gear, thinking he could travel faster. One of the other three hikers ran down the trail to catch up with Paez, but didn’t find him before reaching the Wahkeena Falls trailhead.
The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office said Paez was located about 3:15 p.m. on the Oneonta Trail below triple falls. Another hiker recognized him from media coverage of the search.
Paez told search teams he got into a spot he couldn’t get out of so he just stayed put until daylight. He drank water from a stream. He was not hurt but did have a rip in his pants.
“People watching this can see lessons learned, something what they don’t want to do,” he told the media shortly after coming off the trail. “I was very lucky. This could have totally been a different situation, and I’m very happy that it was a very successful one.”
He was being checked out by medical staff.
Paez was on the trip with two other firefighters from Austin.