Body of missing LA County firefighter found

Posted at 11:48 PM, Aug 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-20 02:48:27-04

A body found in a Santa Barbara County canyon was confirmed by family members Sunday to be that of a missing Los Angeles County Fire Department captain.

An approximate time or location of when the confirmation was made was not immediately known, Battalion Chief Jason Roberston said.

Robertson said the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department is conducting an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Wayne Stuart Habell’s death. The body was discovered at 6 p.m. Saturday at Hot Springs Canyon Trail in Montecito, said Lt. Kevin Huddle of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office.

An SUV registered to Habell, 43, was found near the trail at 2 p.m. on Friday, Huddle said in a news release posted on the department’s Facebook page.

Passersby reported a suspicious vehicle had been parked near Hot Springs since Monday, Aug. 13 and said a lone male was seen walking along the trail, Huddle said.

Santa Barbara sheriff’s deputies, the Santa Barbara County Air Support Unit and members of Santa Barbara Search and Rescue began an extensive search for Habell shortly after receiving the tip at 2 p.m. Friday, but stopped after it became too dark.

The search resumed Saturday morning.Habell was last seen leaving his home in Newhall at 7:30 a.m. Monday, Deputy Trina Schrader of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau said, reportedly on his way to a fitness center.

He was said to be driving a 2008 black Chrysler Aspen SUV with a Los Angeles County fire department sticker on the back window.

Habell was assigned to the department’s Fire Station 73 in Newhall where colleagues said his disappearance was out of character. "It’s not his normal self (that) he would do this," county fire Inspector Gustavo Medina said.

Capt. Adam Clint of Los Angeles County Fire Station 108 in the Santa Clarita Valley, who previously worked with Habell, told the Santa Clarita Valley Signal that Habell’s wife said her husband suffered from depression.