British actor Julian Sands still missing after 6 days in California mountains

Though searchers were able to 'ping' his iPhone, the signal has since been lost

Authorities said actor Julian Sands was believed to be an experienced hiker. AP
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The search for British-born film star Julian Sands, best known for his role in A Room with a View, pressed on for a sixth day in the snow-covered mountains of southern California, with no sign of the 65-year-old actor, authorities said on Thursday.

The actor was reported missing on Friday evening, January 13, after he had gone hiking alone in the Baldy Bowl area of the San Gabriel Mountains, about 80 kilometres north-east of Los Angeles, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

Mount Baldy looms over Los Angeles. Photo: Alek Leckszas

A search was immediately initiated in the area, but ground teams were pulled out on Saturday evening due to avalanche risks and poor trail conditions, said sheriff's department spokeswoman Mara Rodriguez.

Intermittent aerial searches by helicopter and drone aircraft have continued, however, and authorities planned to resume a ground search once conditions allow, she said.

“We had an air crew up today and there were no signs of Mr Sands,” Ms Rodriguez told Reuters by email.

The Baldy Bowl, a large sloping area below the crest of the Mount Baldy ski area, is a popular destination for skiers, climbers and backpackers. Ms Rodriguez said Sands was believed to be an experienced hiker.

Mobile phone signals detected on Sunday, January 15, showed Sands was then heading to the Mount Baldy area, apparently the latest indication he was still on the move.

Subsequent attempts to “ping” his Apple iPhone failed, “due to the lack of cell service and most likely cell phone power failure”, the department said in an update posted on Thursday.

A “delayed ping” from Sands's iPhone operating system, generated on January 14, provided a possible location on a trail to the Mount Baldy summit, but checks of that spot by ground and helicopter teams were of no avail, the department said.

The sheriff's department has warned that severe winter weather, following weeks of storms that dumped heavy snow in California mountains, has made the Baldy area dangerous for outdoor recreation. Overnight temperatures there have ranged from 4°C to minus 4°C over the past week, Ms Rodriguez said.

Over the past four weeks, sheriff search teams have been dispatched on 14 rescue missions on Mount Baldy and surrounding areas for lost or stranded hikers, two of whom perished after falling or injuring themselves, the agency said.

Born in England, Sands moved to California in the 1980s to pursue a Hollywood career after the success of the 1985 film A Room with a View, a Merchant-Ivory period romance in which he was cast as the leading man opposite Helena Bonham Carter.

He played the title role in the 1998 film version of The Phantom of the Opera.

Other motion picture credits include The Killing Fields, Boxing Helena, Leaving Las Vegas and the English-language remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Updated: January 20, 2023, 12:00 AM