Search continues for missing musician whose wrecked car was found off Highway 96
More than a week after Rocky Ramirez's car was found wrecked off the side of Highway 96 near Happy Camp, the musician and former EMT hasn't been located – and his family is still searching for answers.
Ramirez's sister Mona Gustafson said the situation is overwhelming, and she's trying to process all the information coming at her.
"I respect everyone's professional opinion," said Gustafson, who lives in the Sacramento area and has made a big push on social media for tips to find her younger brother. This proved fruitful – on Thursday, she received video footage of Ramirez at the last store he stopped at in Hoopa before the accident.
While some agencies have told Gustafson that Ramirez, age 47, was likely ejected into the river in the Aug. 10 crash, other first responders have said it appears he got out of the vehicle, which was found about 350 feet down an embankment near Ti Bar River access.
Siskiyou County Sheriff Jeremiah LaRue said his department is still "actively searching" for Ramirez, who is originally from Oakland but had been living in Humboldt County.
"As of yet, we have not located any solid leads to help us determine his whereabouts, but we remain committed to locating Mr. Ramirez," LaRue said, adding that searches will continue on land and in the water.
Sister holds out hope
Ramirez – a musician and former firefighter EMT with Stockton Fire Department and American Medical Response – left Humboldt County on the morning of Aug. 10 on his way to Yreka. He was last heard from while in the Hoopa area around 12:30 p.m.
Gustafson said Ramirez's car was "mangled," with every window blown out except for the windshield. However, the cab of the car was not crushed and she maintains hope that he survived the crash. Blood trails seem to confirm that theory is possible, she said.
Some of Ramirez's friends have expressed interest in forming their own search party in the area, but Gustafson said because the crash site is so near to the McCash Fire, she has cautioned them against it. In addition to the smoke and nearby firefighting effort, the terrain is dangerous and his friends and family don't know the community.
"I don't want to take away any resources from the professionals who are searching for him," she said.
"On Monday, I was resolved that more than likely, Rocky was in the river, and that's where he'd be found," said Gustafson. "Now, I'm not so sure."
Missing man Rocky Ramirez is 'funny, positive, and wickedly talented'
No matter what happened, Gustafson said she is determined to find her brother. She said he's a talented musician who "made people feel good about themselves."
"When he walked in the room, it lit up," she said. Gustafson described him as a combination of Robin Williams, Brian McKnight and Stevie Wonder.
"He was so funny. We'd be talking, and he'd say something that was so hysterical, and I'd say, 'how did you ever come up with that?' He was a talented singer and performer ... he wrote and produced music. He had this voice – he was so eclectic. It's hard to come up with the right word. He was funny, positive and wickedly talented."
Gustafson said no matter what, "this is not the end for my brother." She wants to create a foundation that would expose children to music, since music is what got Ramirez through tough times in his life.
"I want to create something that will continue that, to help children have access to those kinds of opportunities," she said.
How to help
Ramirez has brown hair and brown eyes. He is six feet, one inch tall and weighs about 215 pounds. Anyone with information is encouraged to call the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office dispatch at 530-841-2900.
Skye Kinkade is the editor of the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers and the Siskiyou Daily News. She is a fourth generation, lifelong Siskiyou County resident.