BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — A body was recovered Sunday from Big Tujunga Canyon, and a Bakersfield man believes it is his co-worker who was reported missing last month after not returning from a hiking trip.
Los Angeles Sheriff's Lt. Elisabeth Sachs confirmed Monday that a body was recovered but said a positive identification has not been made. The department's homicide bureau is handling the investigation, and she noted that it's not because of suspected foul play but standard procedure for missing persons.
Jim Hussey has worked with Ertug Ergun, a Turkey native, for more than a year at an independent oil company in Bakersfield. Hussey reported Ergun missing when he failed to show up for work June 18. He last spoke to him on June 15, when Ergun wished him a good weekend.
The following Friday, a park ranger at the Angeles National Forest ran the license plate on an SUV that had been in a public parking lot for several days. When it came back to Ergun,a missing person from Bakersfield, Montrose Search and Rescue was called, and massive search got underway.
Hussey said he received a phone call Saturday night from a hiker who lives near the Stonyvale Picnic area where Ergun's vehicle was found. That man, Mark Fitzsimmons, told him he found Ergun's body while hiking with his wife.
By phone Monday, Fitzsimmons said he and his wife had been keeping an eye out for Ergun since they first heard he'd gone missing. The couple took a hike Saturday and went to an area they figured no person would go. Sure enough, they spotted a body down below.
Fitzsimmons said he thinks Ergun went up the Stone Canyon Trail and came down the Grizzly Flat Trail, an area recovering from fire damage, and got lost. He figured Ergun ran out of water and tried to get to the creek below, which he estimated to be 300 to 400 feet down, and Ergun either fell or became trapped.
Fitzsimmons said the area would be virtually impossible to get out of without rappelling gear. And he noted its a good 8 miles from where it appears Ergun began his hike.
Ergun's co-worker said Fitzsimmons also told him that Ergun was missing a shoe and his glasses and he had some sort of head injury.
Hussey is awaiting the autopsy results to know whether his friend fell or simply died from exposure.
Again, authorities have not positively identified the body, but Hussey is busy making arrangements to return Ergun's body to his family in Turkey.