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UPDATE: Sheriff's Department confirms body is that of Sarah Alarid

Vehicle apparently plunged into ravine off steep mountain road

Posted: January 9, 2013 10:21 a.m.
Updated: January 9, 2013 5:55 p.m.

Santa Clarita Sheriff's Deputies move the yellow tape to admit a Santa Clarita Valley Search and Rescue vehicle to the site on Sand Canyon Road in the Angeles National Forest where a car was found down a steep ravine with a body nearby on Wednesday morning.

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Homicide detectives confirmed today that the body of a woman found next to a car at the bottom of a ravine off Sand Canyon Road is that of Sarah Alarid, missing since a party on New Year’s Eve.

“At 9 this morning, one of our sheriff’s helicopters was flying over this area to another call of a suspicious grave site when they spotted a vehicle at the bottom of the ravine,” said Lt. Dave Dolson of the Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau.

“On closer inspection, it turns out it was the missing girl, Sarah Alarid,” he said.

“It now appears Miss Alarid was ejected from the vehicle.”

The 19-year-old woman’s body was found “some ways away” from the car, he said.

“All indications are that there is no foul play involved,” he added. “It appears to be an accident.”

When asked if alcohol was a factor, Dolson said: “I think there is information that she was drinking at the party.”

Emergency crews converged on a rugged, hilly section of Sand Canyon Road near Little Tujunga Canyon Road early Wednesday when Alarid’s silver-colored, four-door 2002 Ford Focus was spotted from the air.

Santa Clarita Valley sheriff’s deputies closed Sand Canyon Road in both directions around the crash site.

By noon, investigators had confirmed that the car at the bottom of a 200-foot ravine was the missing woman’s car, said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Steve Whitmore.

Alarid was reported missing after she left a New Year’s Eve party in Canyon Country between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. on Jan. 1. Friends and family members mounted daily, organized searches for her and her car.

Her disappearance drew widespread media attention, so when reports came in early Wednesday of a possible shallow grave found off Big Tujunga Canyon Road near Sunland, the Los Angeles news media jumped on the story.

A caravan of eight coroner’s vehicles had just arrived at the Big Tujunga Canyon site when it was turned around to respond to the Sand Canyon Road discovery. The Big Tujunga site was determined to contain no remains, Whitmore said.

Ironically, it was a helicopter responding to the site with no remains that spotted Alarid’s car, Dolson said.

As helicopters circled overhead Wednesday morning, sheriff’s deputies blocked off Sand Canyon Road in both directions east of Placerita Canyon Road where it ascends Bear Divide toward Little Tujunga Canyon Road.

By noon, close to 20 news media vehicles were halted at the road block. Members of the Santa Clarita Valley Search and Rescue team arrived around noon; the coroner’s caravan arrived around 12:30 p.m.

Brian Alarid, uncle of Sarah Alarid, told the media the Alarid family had lived in the Sand Canyon area and that his brother, Mike, heads up the U.S. Forest Service’s Bear Divide Station where Sand Canyon intersects Little Tujunga Canyon Road.

Scott W. Allen, who identified himself as a captain with the Bear Divide InterAgency Hotshot Crew, said Sand Canyon Road beyond the roadblock was treacherous with many sharp turns as it ascends toward Little Tujunga Canyon Road.

The Alarid family, including the missing woman’s father, spent the morning at their home in Canyon Country, choosing not to watch TV coverage of the found car, he said.

He described the family members at the Alarids’ house as “distsraught.”

Cheryl Jimenez, who lives in a home on a private road overlooking the ravine, said she saw helicopters searching near her home early Werdnesday.

“I saw the pictures on the TV and that’s Sarah’s car,” she told reporters at the roadblock. “My daughter Hayle is friends with (Sarah Alarid) and helped in the search,” she said, referring to the series of searches friends and family have conducted in different Santa Clarita Valley neighborhoods.

About 1:10 p.m., Sarah Alarid’s father, Mike Alarid, arrived at the roadblock in his black SUV plastered with posters asking “Where’s Sarah?” and describing the conditions of her disappearance.

He and his brother, Brian, got into a sheriff’s patrol car and rode up Sand Canyon toward the location where the Focus went into the ravine.

The two brothers returned to the roadblock about 20 minutes later in the same cruiser and did not stop to talk to the media.

Dolson, who announced the body was that of Sarah Alarid, said the missing woman’s father was not called in to identify the body.

Sarah Alarid attended a New Year’s Eve party on Poppy Meadow Street in Canyon Country and left the party around 3-4 a.m. Jan. 1.

Investigators searched areas along her presumed route between the home in the Pinetree area of Canyon Country and her parents’ home on Plum Canyon Road.

Friends and family launched searches in other neighborhoods, distributing fliers and searching places where her car might have run off the road.

A candlelight vigil in memory of Sarah Alarid was scheduled Wednesday evening at Todd Longshore Park in Canyon Country.





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