Chautauqua Gorge search lasted 11 hours

MAYVILLE – An 11-hour-long rescue effort to locate five missing hikers lost in the Chautauqua Gorge ended on a positive note.

According to the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office, the hikers were located shortly before 4 a.m. Wednesday after one of them managed to get out of the gorge. The other four were extricated around 8:15 a.m.

“They were caught on a ledge and the rescue team didn’t want to pull them out at night,” said Charles J. Holder, Chautauqua County undersheriff. “So they got them blankets and put a shelter in place until daybreak.”

All five hikers were uninjured, police said.

The hikers – Jonathan A. Leviene, 17, of Houston, Texas; Joseph H. Katz, 17, of St. Louis, Missouri; Ranee Fried, 18, of Woodmere; Yael M. Nadler, 17, of Israel; and Nechimi R. Ben-Ezri, 18, of Israel – apparently went missing at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday.

According to Mayville Fire Chief Ron Trippy, the hikers’ cellphones were pinged to help identify their location.

“(The Chautauqua Gorge) can be treacherous … especially when you get some wet weather,” Holder said. “The gorge is filled with shale rock and is very slippery. We’ve had injuries in the past and people who have been stranded on ledges before.”

Holder encourages hikers to only navigate the gorge during daylight hours.

The Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office and New York State Forest Rangers conducted the joint search and rescue operation with the assistance of the Westfield, Hartfield, Portland, Mayville and Sherman fire departments. Shortly after midnight, the Chautauqua County Technical Rescue Team was called to assist as well.