On January 2012, Ron Kirk, a local hiker, former Marine, and avid runner, went missing in Red Rock Canyon. The day began like many others for Ron. He set off by himself after a few text messages to friends, then disappeared into Calico Basin. Concern for Ron’s safety began when his family hadn’t heard from him in a few days. Ron’s family contacted the Las Vegas Hash House Harriers, a running club in which Ron was an avid participant, to gather more information. It was uncovered that the last contact with Ron was more than a week prior. A 911 call was made, and the official search for Ron Kirk began.
Metro Search & Rescue launched multiple operations into the canyon both day and night, utilizing helicopters, infrared technology, and exhausting their resources, to no avail. Hope for Ron’s safety began to diminish, but his friends and family would not stop looking for him. Before the week was out, hundreds of people had joined the Facebook page created to help organize searches. Complete strangers found themselves working together to find Ron.
One of those searching was Dave Cummings, a Search and Rescue volunteer for 22 years in his former state of California. Experience had taught him that in order for search efforts to be as effective as possible, organization was needed. Dave became the Searcher Leader in the field. He soon found himself in need of help. Dave got Dana Richardson, Jadan Laguna, Larry Simon, and others to assemble an informal command staff. For weeks they organized repeated searches into Red Rock Canyon, doggedly determined to find a man they had never even met.
Finally after months of searching, on March 10th Ron was found in one of the most treacherous areas of Calico Basin. The coroner’s report released two days later indicated that Ron died from injuries sustained from a fall of hundreds of feet.
A Reason For Being
Dave Cummings and his command staff saw a need that had to be filled. When Metro runs out of resources the families have no one to call. So Dave and his command staff, supported by a generous donation from Ron Kirk’s family, started Red Rock Search and Rescue so families had someone to turn to in their time of need.
Not long after Ron’s funeral, a call came in from Jodi Goldberg, sister of a man reported missing and presumed murdered by his girlfriend and her estranged husband. Dave Cummings, Commander of Red Rock Search and Rescue, wasted no time deploying the newly-formed group to the field.
Working off information supplied by Metro homicide detectives, the team began a yearlong and very eventful journey that would cover over a hundred square miles of desert. On April 14th 2013, exactly one year to the day from Jodi Goldberg’s first call to the team, the team deployed en masse into the Lake Mead search area. Keith’s remains were located within two hours.
Red Rock Search and Rescue was formally honored by the Mayor of Las Vegas on April 17, 2013 for their efforts, just after finding Keith in the Lake Mead Recreational Area a few days earlier.
During the yearlong search for Keith, the team was quietly motivated by the behind-the-scenes efforts of the Goldberg family, who worked tirelessly to keep legal interest in their brother’s disappearance alive. Keith’s searches gave cause for the team to get into uniform, streamline command structures, train on new skills and techniques, improve communications, stress-test equipment, cultivate relationships with other organizations, learn the politics involved with volunteer groups, and in general – become a search and rescue team equipped for anything, any time.
Onwards & Upwards
As the team passed its first year mark in 2013, it wasn’t difficult to look around and marvel at how far the team had
come. What was once a motley crew of strangers in mismatched clothes, was now a blazing orange army of like-minde
and equally-determined people, all carrying on the spirit of Ron Kirk. They faced endless challenges, extreme weather,
and unforgiving terrain, doing it all with a smile. The team has opened a
functioning office complete with a training center, expanded into mobile command posts, and more. The team’s motto of WE DON’T QUIT is a way of life and a philosophy that binds the entire team together. Our objective is to always be ready any time to see the search through to the very end, even after everyone else has quit and gone home.