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Dozens search Mojave ghost town area for missing men

December 21, 2011 | 12:52 pm

Two Santa Barbara men have been missing in the Mojave desert since setting out on an all-terrain vehicle early Sunday morning from Randsburg, and scores of searchers are now combing a hilly, rugged area pocked with thousands of old gold and silver mines, authorities said.

Christopher W. Rice, 29, and Daniel P. Carbonara, 27, were last seen about 2:30 a.m. Sunday leaving their hotel in the ghost town of Randsburg, and never returned to claim their car or belongings, according to Kern County Sheriff’s Lt. David Barker.

Barker said some 180 searchers, including trackers from the Kern County and San Bernardino county sheriff’s departments, have been searching a 1,100-square-mile area.

“We’re looking for a specific grain of sand in a football field,” Barker said.

“To our knowledge, they had no GPS, no cellphones,” he added. “We don’t know if they had any type of navigational aid. They could have gone any direction.”

He said searchers are focused on a 60-mile radius around the town of Randsburg, since 60 miles is believed to be the furthest their fuel would have allowed them to travel.

The desert temperatures have been dropping into the high 20s at night, he said.

“If you have experience in the desert, it’s possible to shelter yourself and survive temperatures like that,” Barker said. “As each day goes by, the likelihood is less that this will have a happy ending.”

Carbonara’s mother, Vasant Rechtschaffen, said her son and Rice, who are roommates, had planned to ride to a dry lake near Randsburg.

“They said were just going to go out for 45 minutes and have never returned,” she said. “There’s been no evidence. There hasn’t been anything.”

She has been searching the desert herself since she learned they were missing.

“It’s huge out here,” she said. “It’s overwhelming.”


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-- Christopher Goffard  

Photo: An old mine with rotted timbers in Randsburg. Search teams have been looking for two men who went missing Sunday. Credit: Myung J. Chun