Riverside County Sheriff's Dept takes criticism over delay of search for biker found frozen in mountains over weekend

CORONA - A woman whose husband apparently froze to death in the Santa Ana Mountains this weekend while on a bicycle ride expressed bitterness at the Riverside County Sheriff's Department in remarks reported today, criticizing a decision to delay an overnight search in the face of foul weather.

Friends and family of the mountain bike rider began their own  pre-dawn search for him, the Riverside Press Enterprise reported.

Andres Marin was reported missing by his wife, Christyna Arista, around 6 p.m. Saturday, 30 minutes after he phoned to say he was lost. The father of four was celebrating his 34th birthday with a nine-hour round trip ride to Santiago Peak.

He wore cycling shorts and a thin shirt. Against his wife's advice he decided not to carry food, according to the Press-Enterprise.

When he eventually called, two and a half hours after his projected return time, his voice was slurred, and he was unable to answer her questions, Arista told the newspaper.

Riverside County sheriff's Lt. Zach Hall told the newspaper that steady rain Saturday night prevented searchers from using a helicopter. The heavy rain of the previous three days also rendered the trails in the Cleveland National Forest too slick for motorized vehicles, he said.

Arista told the newspaper she gathered half a dozen family members, who set out on foot in groups of twos and threes from Corona at 3:45 a.m. Sunday. A separate official search party, with teams from the Riverside Mountain and Desert rescue units, Sheriff's Aviation, and the U.S. Forest Service set out around 6 a.m. Sunday.

Arista said a volunteer searcher found her husband's body around 10 a.m. Sunday. She said his hands were still on the handlebars of his mountain bike and his feet were on the pedals. The bike was leaning against the slope of a hill on the Skyline Trail in the Orange County section of the forest.

Arista said the Riverside County Coroner told her that her husband's body had scratches and cuts but nothing that could have killed him. She said his body was purple when it was found and she believes he froze to death.

Arista was critical of the Sheriff's department for not immediately launching an intensive search for her husband. "I'm angry with them,'' she told the Press Enterprise.  'I don't think they made the right choice.''

Hall disagreed. "We could have set ourselves up for a self-rescue,'' he said. "I would not have sent people up there to get hurt.''

An autopsy is pending.

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