Officials Identify Remains of Missing Actor Julian Sands
Sands, 65, never returned from a hike on Southern California’s Mount Baldy in January
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The mystery of Hollywood actor Julian Sands, who went missing while hiking in Southern California this past January, has come to a sad conclusion.
On Tuesday, June 27, law enforcement officials in San Bernardino, California, said that human remains found last week in a remote section of the San Gabriel Mountains had been “positively identified” as belonging to Sands. The 65-year-old British actor, known for his roles in such films as A Room With a View and The Killing Fields, had been missing since January. He leaves behind a wife, Evgenta Citkowitz, and three children.
On January 13, Sands left his home in North Hollywood to go for a solo hike on 10,064-foot Mount Baldy. According to The New York Times, Sands said he’d climbed the mountain approximately 200 times. “I like it in winter,” he said in the 2013 book My City, My Los Angeles. “Winter conditions make it a bit more interesting.”
High winds and snow battered the peak later that day as an atmospheric river engulfed much of Southern California. When Sands failed to return home, officials launched a search for him. Authorities spent days combing the mountain for Sands, using cell phone location data to try and pinpoint his position on the peak. Helicopter crews and aerial drones participated in the initial search as well. But rescuers were hampered by bad weather, and the ground search was temporarily called off due to avalanche danger in the area.
Officials organized seven subsequent searches for Sands in the winter and spring, but none of the missions turned up any sign of the missing actor. The most recent occurred on June 17, when 80 people scoured the mountain for him, aided by a helicopter crew.
After that mission turned up no results, Sands’ family released a statement. “We continue to hold Julian in our hearts with bright memories of him as a wonderful father, husband, explorer, lover of the natural world and the arts, and as an original and collaborative performer,” the family wrote in the statement.
The search finally ended on June 24, when a hiker contacted authorities after finding human remains on the peak. The remains were brought to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department to be analyzed. Officials have not released a cause of death.
Sands’ disappearance came amid a spate of rescues and missing hikers on Mount Baldy, and his story shed light on the many dangers present on the popular peak. Another hiker, Robert Gregory of Hawthorne, California, disappeared on the same route the same day (he was found deceased three weeks later). The New York Times reported that officials responded to 14 requests for rescues in and around Mount Baldy in the weeks prior to Sands’ disappearance.
The peak is a frequent destination for Southern California hikers due to its close proximity to downtown Los Angeles. But Mount Baldy’s loose and rocky terrain and high altitude also make it the frequent site of rescues and death. The peak is often buffeted by high winds, and several sections of the 11.3-mile loop to the summit cross narrow sections with exposed drop-offs.
“Put all that together—cold temperatures, high winds, steep, exposed, slippery terrain, and the potential for snow—and make it proximate and easy to access to all 24 million people who live across the SoCal urban conurbation, and you can see why rescues, injuries, and deaths are inevitable,” columnist Wes Siler wrote in a January story for Outside. “Put enough people in situations with even a minimal amount of risk, and eventually the numbers just add up.”