UPDATE 11:22 a.m. Sunday: Robert “Bob” Bell, a 79-year-old man with dementia/Parkinson’s disease who went missing Saturday afternoon in Cambria, was found about 9 a.m. Sunday, lying on a steep slope in a canyon that’s thick with trees and brush.
Initial medical examinations showed Bell was in relatively good condition, considering he’d been outside all night in light clothing. He was taken by ambulance to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center for a more complete examination for other possible injuries or medical problems beyond the obvious scratches, cold and thirst.
John Sterling, who found Bell on acreage Sterling owns, said he’d just “had a feeling that Bob was down there” somewhere. So Sterling, who’d combed nearby areas for Bell the day before, went out again early Sunday to search for the missing man, who lives a few blocks away in Cambria’s “Top of the World” neighborhood of Lodge Hill. “When I got close, the dog started barking,” Sterling said, drawing him to Bell’s location.
Bell hikes and walks a lot with his chocolate Labrador retriever, Kiki, who would not leave her master’s side, even when rescuers tried to pull her away to get to the downed man. The dog had a scratched paw and was hungry and thirsty, but seemed to be unhurt otherwise.
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The Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue team drew volunteers from as far as Kern County and Santa Barbara. Sheriff Ian Parkinson helped search in the dark Saturday night, and he returned Sunday morning to oversee the rescue. The search had continued all night, drawing neighbors and strangers from throughout the community. A rescue helicopter and plane, CHP, sheriff’s K-9 unit, State Parks rangers, Cambria Fire Department and Cambria Community Healthcare District participated in the rescue.
Original story: A helicopter flew a grid-search pattern over Cambria’s forested hills Saturday evening as emergency crews and search-and-rescue personnel combed Cambria’s Top of the World neighborhood, trying to find a missing man in his late 70s who has dementia.
Robert “Bob” Bell apparently was walking his brown Labrador retriever, as he often did. According to CHP officers, Bell was last seen wearing an off-white fishing-style hat (similar to a Tilly hat), a brown jacket or sweatshirt, black shirt and black shorts.
The call came in about 6:30 p.m., according to San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office officials.
Bell is known for his dedication to Fiscalini Ranch Preserve and other land-conservation projects, and for the log benches he built for the ranch. He and wife Alese have been active volunteers for a number of nonprofit groups, especially Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve.