Missing hiker

Joe Smallwood

An 82-year-old Ohio man who became lost in Madera Canyon on Feb. 5 repeatedly expressed concern that deputies wouldn't be able to find him, according to his 911 call, which was released by the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Department on Friday night.

Joe Smallwood called 911 around 4 p.m. and the call went to the Pima County Sheriff's Department. While transferring the call to Santa Cruz County, a dispatcher supplied the new dispatcher with Smallwood's GPS coordinates, obtained from his cellphone.

Smallwood told the Santa Cruz County dispatcher he couldn't remember the name of the trail he'd started out on and he didn't know the name of the trail he accidentally ended up on.

When the dispatcher asked if he was alone and had food, a somewhat exasperated Smallwood said yes, but went on to say, "I'm trying to get you to know where I am."

Over the next five minutes the dispatcher told Smallwood five times he had a general idea of where he was and told him seven times it was important for him to stay put, and that help was on the way.

Twice when the dispatcher asked questions such as what Smallwood was wearing and how well his phone battery was charged, Smallwood asked how he'd be found.

At one point, when the dispatcher tried to hang up after telling Smallwood to again "sit tight," Smallwood said, "Now I'm trying to, but I'm afraid you won't get much from not talking to me."

The dispatcher instructed the part-time Tucson resident to call him every 15 minutes to assure him he was OK, but Smallwood said his phone was "liable to quit" if he left it on.

In the last minute of the phone call, Smallwood was asked about medical conditions.

"No, I'm OK. I'm getting cold."

He then asked again how they were going to find him.

The last thing the dispatcher said before the call was disconnected was officials had his GPS coordinates, "so we have an idea on where you are located at."

Smallwood’s voice isn’t heard again and it’s unclear whether he heard the dispatcher’s final line.

Deputies began searching for Smallwood within 75 minutes of his call. Two days later, it was deemed a recovery effort rather than a rescue. The search was called off Monday night with no sign of Smallwood.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Lt. Gerardo Castillo said he suspects Smallwood wandered away from where the GPS coordinates put him, just west of the Josephine Saddle Trail.

Deputies will look for Smallwood again Sunday as part of a training exercise.

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