Remains of long-missing woman found near Amboy Crater

The remains of a woman were found last week near Amboy Crater near Amboy, California, after she and her husband went missing 10 months ago.

Susan Schmierer and her husband, William, of Williamsburg, Virginia, went missing after a visit to Amboy Crater during a cross-country trip to see a daughter in California. Their empty car was found at the trailhead for Amboy Crater about 10 days after they’d left it.

William’s body was found three days later by search teams in San Bernardino County, California, after the couple was reported missing. An autopsy revealed he died of heat exposure.

According to The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, California:

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said Sunday that Susan Schmierer’s cause of death is pending, but said, “At this time, (it) appears to be consistent with accidental heat exposure.”

An autopsy is pending.

Susan’s remains were found east of Amboy Crater, which suggests she was looking for help by trying to walk to the Route 66 village of Amboy two miles away before she succumbed. The trailhead parking lot lies northeast of the crater and often can’t be seen, even from the marked trail.

The search for William wasn’t easy on rescue teams. The rough terrain and high temperatures around Amboy Crater disabled at least one of the search vehicles. Another search team looking for Susan’s body using drones also came up empty last year.

Susan was the fifth fatality at Amboy Crater in less than a year. In late May 2018, a man in his 60s was found dead on the trail, likely from a heat-related illness. A California couple was found dead near the trail in August 2017, also likely from heat-related causes.

I’ve hiked into Amboy Crater several times, including when the air temperature was in the 90s. We’ve generally timed our hikes during the early morning or early evening hours, when the sun isn’t as oppressive. Once, we got lucky with an overcast day. You can read more about one of our experiences here.

I recommend hiking to Amboy Crater. After all, how often can you say you’ve walked into a volcano? But if you hold doubt whether you’re up to the task or whether the weather conditions are conducive, I wouldn’t do it. The Mojave Desert is harsh and doesn’t play around.

Amboy Crater is a 250-foot-tall extinct volcano a few miles from the Route 66 village of Amboy. It’s listed as a National Natural Landmark and is within the recently established Mojave Trails National Monument.

(Image of hikers at Amboy Crater by Alison Jean Cole via Flickr)

7 thoughts on “Remains of long-missing woman found near Amboy Crater

  1. You would think there would be somebody checking the area on a regular basis
    or some sort of protection from the sun would be erected
    A shame so many die yet there could be a simple solution

  2. Considering how drone technology has advanced, would it not be possible to use one in such searches? Since the area has so much sunshine, how about solar top-up while flying on a search or rescue flight?

  3. Hi Eric. I filmed one of the first official searches for Susan Schmeirer back in July 2018. In addition to a half-dozen Morongo Valley Search & Rescue volunteers on quads, a company called DroneUp had four drone pilots conducting an aerial search. They were there for several days but found nothing.

  4. Thanks, Robert, for that info. At least I was on the right track. Having been involved some years back with aerial surveying for mineral exploration, I know how easy it is to miss something. Especially when there are strong shadows that hide or distort the shape of what one is looking for. Would you know if the drone search was in the area in which Susan Schmeirer’s body was found?

  5. As I understand it Susan’s body was found, (by an unnamed person), close to where Amboy Road meets the Railroad Tracks. I don’t think anybody expected that she could’ve made it that far. Interestingly – at almost the exact time, a search was underway for a Canadian man who vanished on the 49 Palms Trail in Twentynine Palms. Drones were also used during that seach, and they eventually did lead to the recovery of his body…eleven months later. Eleven months until one of the pilots re-examined his aerial photographs and saw something unusual near the base of a shrub. So yes – it’s very difficult to identify “anomolies” (my term) on the ground while piloting a drone. Best wishes to you.

  6. Thanks, Robert, for your replies – including the latest one. Returning to what I said earlier about my time (it was in the early 1970s) when I was involved in mineral exploration, I am sure a drone fitted with two cameras (or a twin lens camera) – to produce stereoscopic 3D images – would be a lot more effective than a single lens producing 2D results. I was working in Lesotho in southern Africa, and a photo-geologist was part of the project. An area – either in the mountainous highly-incised highlands, or the much flatter lowlands – would be flown and photographed, both with real colour and with infra-red film. The photo-geologist would place a pair of overlapping large prints on his desk, and examine the overlapped sections through stereoscopic spectacles sitting in their frame some six inches above the prints. They turned the ‘flat’ images into 3D ones, and he would mark features to be investigated.

    Just as the camera in the light aircraft flying at, say 100 mph/knots, would take a photograph every fraction of a second – to ensure the frames overlapped – a drone could do the same thing but at a much slower speed over the land. And prints from a drone with a single camera with a single lens could likewise be overlapped to produce 3D images. OR a twin lens camera or a pair of cameras could create 3D images directly.

    Incidentally the term ‘anomaly’ is the one used by geologists world-wide to refer to geological abnormalities. And anyone examining aerial or other photographs would be on the look-out for anything abnormal or anomalous. I was involved in a kimberlite exploration project, and anomalies included rounded areas suggesting a kimberlite pipe, or straight lines suggesting a kimberlite dyke. Indeed, when I followed up on the ground features noted by the photo-geologist, I did on occasion find kimberlite occurrences. Regrettably none proved to be diamond bearing.

    Do you know of drones using stereoscopic cameras for actual investigations? I looked online, and found “Frontiers in Robotics and AI”, which had as much to do with using a stereo set-up for obstacle avoidance as for taking stereo images for record purposes. Even so, using a pair of 2D cameras mounted on a drone side by side, stereo images were viewable.

    As with most new technology, the experimental becomes the norm. Any future searches for missing people anywhere would surely benefit from the use of aerial stereoscopic imagery.

    Best wishes – Eric.

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