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Guy’s “Very Weird Hobby” Of Figuring Out Where Pics Were Taken Helps Locate Missing Hiker

Hiker Rene Compean, 45, went missing over the weekend while hiking in the Angeles National Forest in Southern California. Compean had sent a friend a picture of his legs dangling over the edge of a canyon, texting that he was lost and his phone battery was dying. 

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department released the last photo that the hiker had taken, hoping that someone could possibly identify their location. Crazy enough, someone was able to.

LOS ANGELES SHERRIF’S DEPARTMENT

According to the Sacramento Bee, Benjamin Kuo describes his interest in satellite photos as “a very weird hobby.” 

He explains, “I love taking a look at photos and figuring out where they’re taken.”

His love of satellite photos has now saved a life. When he saw the image sheriff’s officials released to the public, Kuo had an idea of where Compean’s location may be. He notified the police of his hunch, sharing GPS coordinates with them.

“You don’t think that sitting behind a computer and looking at a picture and saying, ‘Oh, it looks like that might be where he is,’ would lead to a person being rescued…

I was hoping I didn’t send them on a wild goose chase, and then they’d get mad at me.”

Benjamin Kuo, via Sacramento Bee
LOS ANGELES SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT

A helicopter was dispatched and searchers found Compean on a ridge—less than a mile from Kuo’s coordinates.

The outdoor adventurer was found safe and did not require medical care. He did not have the GPS tracker on his phone turned on, and his vehicle was parked at a trailhead but didn’t know which trail he had taken. 

Compean and Kuo met virtually, and Compean had the opportunity to thank him. He told him, “I crazy appreciate what you did…I really don’t know if I could make it there another day. It was just so cold.”

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Written by Abigale Racine