Missing California Hiker Saved After Man on His Computer at Home Pinpoints His Location Using Only a Photo

Photo of Califronia hiker Rene Compean's shoes

Rene Compean was saved thanks to Benjamin Kuo, who recognized the area in which Compean took a photo of himself while lost in the Los Angeles National Forest.

A California hiker who went missing in the Los Angeles National Forest was saved thanks to a savvy stranger sitting at home in front of his computer. 

Rene Compean. 46, was reported missing in the San Gabriel mountains about 6 p.m. Monday by a friend who got a text from Compean informing him that he was lost and that his cell phone was dying. The friend alerted SAR Teams that began to search in the Mt. Waterman area. According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Compean did not have his location on his phone turned on and though the search continued through the night, he was unable to be found.

On Tuesday, the sheriff’s department sent out a call for help on Facebook. They also posted a photo that Compean sent out to his friend earlier in the day of a photo of his legs that were covered in dirt from his knees down. The photo was sent out to the media and to different social media platforms.

Benjamin Kuo saw the photo as he was sitting in front of his computer at his Newbury Park, California home. He then alerted rescuers that he believed he knew where the missing hiker may be, NBC Los Angeles reported.

Kuo was spot on.

"I do a lot of hiking as well, so I'm a little familiar with the area. And I said, 'Oh, I think I know where this guy is,' and found some GPS locations, and gave it to the search and rescue guy,” Kuo told ABC7 News.

Compean was found near the Chilao Campgrounds on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. He was airlifted out, was in good condition and will not need to be hospitalized, ABC 7 reported.

“I have a weird hobby," Kuo told NBC Los Angeles. “I love looking at photos and figuring out where they are taken.”

Sgt. John Gilbert with the LASD’s Crescenta Valley Station told NBC that “this was a good clue and it was worth investigation.” “We sent Air Rescue 5 out to check the area and lo and behold we find him,” Gilbert said 

Compean got to meet Kuo over a video arranged by NBC Los Angeles. "I greatly appreciate what you did,” Compean said. 

Compean told Kuo he has been lost for 36 hours and began questioning if he would survive the ordeal. “I don’t if I could make it there another day. It was just so cold," he said.