Family rescued after sandal-clad man sets out on 20 mile hike after car breaks down in JTNP

JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK — A family with a man visiting from Poland who became stranded on a dirt road within Joshua Tree National Park was rescued after one of the trio set out from the family’s disabled car, intending to hike about 20 miles back to I-10 to seek help.

After walking several miles in yesterday’s scorching 110 degree heat – while wearing clothes ill-suited for the triple-digit temperature and extensive hike – before a good Samaritan picked him up and helped the exhausted victim find help for his still-stranded family members.


Suspected arsonist arrested as firefighters continue battling 5,000 ac. Cranston Fire

Palm Desert sheriff’s motor officer airlifted after on-duty training accident

Snatched from the arms of their owner outside mall, stolen bulldogs recovered

This afternoon’s rescue began at 1:51 p.m., when Thermal Station sheriff’s deputies responded to the area of Cottonwood Springs Road and I-10 regarding a search and rescue, Riverside Sheriff’s Sergeant Angel Ramos explained after yesterday’s incident.

Szymon Zmijewski, a 20-year-old resident of Poland who is on vacation and visiting area family members, told deputies he was driving west on 1-10 from Arizona to California along with his aunt and uncle when they decided to visit Joshua Tree National Park.

After exiting the freeway the family drove northbound on Cottonwood Springs Road and then onto Pinto Basin Road before eventually turning onto an unknown dirt road.

“Approximately eight miles into the dirt road the sedan they were driving got stuck,” Ramos explained.

Despite not being prepared for a lengthy hike and wearing sandals, Zmijewski decided to walk more than 20 miles back to I-10 to seek help for his stranded aunt and uncle.

After setting out to find assistance, Zmijewski walked for several miles in the extreme heat before a good Samaritan spotted him and drove him the remaining distance to Cottonwood Springs Road and I-10.

“Despite the long hike and hot weather, Zmijewski’s condition was fine and he did not require medical attention,” said Ramos. “Due to the terrain and distance into Joshua Tree National Park, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Desert Search and Rescue Unit was activated.”

Zmijewski eventually guided search and rescue teams into Joshua Tree National Park and his stranded car and family members were soon located and extracted. Despite the day’s extreme heat, the family members were determined to be safe and the pair did not require any medical attention, according to Ramos.


Contact the writer:

Trevor Montgomery, 47, recently moved to Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations, including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle and Anza Valley Outlook, as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and The Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and Lake Elsinore Station, along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 27 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and has 13 children and 14 – soon to be 15 – grandchildren.