Good Samaritan mountain biker who died helping hikers in Jacumba is identified

Kai Torres Bronson, 24, was riding with three other mountain bikers in Carrizo Gorge on Saturday when the incident occurred

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On Tuesday, officials with the San Diego County Medical Examiner's office identified a man who died over the weekend trying to help some hikers stranded without food or water in sweltering temperatures in remote East County.

Kai Torres Bronson, 24, was riding with three other mountain bikers in Carrizo Gorge on Saturday when the incident occurred. Cal Fire crews found him unresponsive about a quarter mile from the trailhead.

“This was a good Samaritan just trying to help out," said Brent Pascua, Fire Capt. with San Diego County Fire. “Unfortunately, bad things happen to people out there when it's this hot.”

The first rescue

Two separate calls about groups of people who became ill from high temperatures near Goat Canyon Trestle in a remote area of the Jacumba Mountains came into the Sheriff's Rural Command just before 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Due to poor cell reception in the area, the Sheriff's Department could not immediately find their general location and dispatchers had to call the first phone number back several times in order to pinpoint a location.

It was not until 2:33 p.m. that a general location was determined and Sheriff's deputies were dispatched. Multiple agencies were asked to help in the effort: Sheriff's ASTREA (helicopter unit), Cal Fire San Diego and the U.S. Border Patrol.

Upon arrival, deputies found a group of hikers in distress. Three of them were airlifted to safety to be treated for dehydration. A fourth hiker managed to walk back to the trailhead on their own, according to Sheriff's Rural Command.

A second rescue

At the same time, first responders found a group of mountain bikers who were also in distress from heat exhaustion. Among them was Torres Bronson.

Torres Bronson had gone to Jacumba Hot Springs with his friends for a mountain bike ride, according to Chuck Westerheide, the County of San Diego's Public Safety Group Communications Officer. He had ridden from their meeting point close to Interstate 8 out to Goat Canyon Trestle. On the return ride, Torres Bronson complained of feeling tired and stayed behind while a friend got water for him.

Later, Torres Bronson and his friend were returning to the meeting point when he collapsed multiple times along the way, ultimately becoming unresponsive, Westerheide told NBC 7.

He was carried into an air-conditioned pickup truck, then transported from an ambulance to an air ambulance, where paramedics attempted lifesaving measures on him. Torres Bronson was eventually pronounced dead at 5:45 p.m., said Brent Pascua, Fire Capt. with San Diego County Cal Fire.

The cause of death and other information were not immediately available.

Online fundraiser

On Monday, family and friends posted an online fundraiser for Torres Bronson that has, as of 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, raised more than $12,000.

"He was truly a hero and was too good for this earth," the post says. "The kindest soul and always putting others about himself ... We love and miss you forever Kai Kai, our hero. We will continue to celebrate the life of Kai Kai."

Services for Torres Bronson will be at the Community Mortuary Chula Vista on July 29 from 4-8 p.m., according to fundraiser organizers.

How to avoid heat exhaustion

The San Diego Mountain Rescue Team suggests planning a trip well within your abilities, checking the weather forecast and bringing the essentials — including plenty of water. As a general guide, expect to drink one liter every two hours and bring extra just in case you're out longer than you plan to be. Hikers and bikers should pack some food with salts and electrolytes to replace what they lose through sweat as well.

Think about bringing even more supplies to share.

“We in the mountain bike community always like to check on somebody we come across, whether they're having a flat tire or mechanical or whether they might be in distress,” said Susie Murphy, San Diego Mountain Biking Association Executive Director. “I'm asking if they're okay, asking if they need water, do they need a snack, any of that stuff.”

She told NBC 7 one of the first rules of wilderness aid is to make sure you’re able to help someone else before you even try to step in.

“You want to make sure you're doing that within what you've been trained for or what you have experienced,” Murphy said. “So, it is important that you don't, for example, give away all your water if you're a certain distance into a trail and you both have to get back out.”

She reminded everyone to stay on designated trails so that if something does go wrong — there’s a clear path for help to reach you.

Despite the generally good cell coverage in the City of San Diego, our mountains and deserts have many areas without cell reception. Rescue crews suggest carrying a satellite messaging device or even using the satellite messaging built into some cell phones. They said it can mean the difference between having the ability to call for help or not. 

The San Diego Mountain Biking Association has a "Trail Preparedness" guide for even more resources and tips to keep in mind before you hit the trails.

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