Missing O.C. man 'was coming back for me'
Anaheim widow recalls how flat tire led to husband's death.
By KIMBERLY EDDS
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
ANAHEIM – The last picture Mark Redweik took of his wife, Tina, she was smiling, standing a few feet from their 1996 Dodge Dakota truck that was wedged in the sand.
It was just an early morning flat tire in the Mojave Desert not far from Barstow during a Memorial Day weekend off-road trip.
Twelve miles from the nearest town, the Redweiks decided to head out on foot in search of a tow truck.
More than two months later, San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies found the camera next to Mark Redweik's body, just 1 1/4 miles from where he had left his pickup. After days of wandering through the desert the 43-year-old Anaheim man never managed to retrieve his truck. He never made it back to his wife, whom he had left behind.
Mark Redweik loved the desert. The isolation of the Mojave has always been an escape for the sheet-metal fabricator, who would grab Tina and hit the road, looking to get away from the cramped motel room at the Executive Suites on Lincoln Avenue that they called home with their daughter and 4-year-old grandson.
"C'mon, Mom, let's go for an adventure," he would say.
It was supposed to be a quick Memorial Day trip. On a whim they decided to take off on Old Mountain Road after exploring Ghost Town of Calico near Yermo. They planned to grab some lunch before heading back to Anaheim. But 12 miles from the nearest paved road, a tire went flat. They had no spare.
The couple spent the night in the truck, planning to head out the next morning.
"We knew we were in trouble," Tina Redweik said. "No one knew where we were."
TUESDAY, MAY 31
They left the truck together, recalls Tina Redweik. But her lanky 6-foot, 4-inch husband quickly outpaced her. With temperatures pushing 100 degrees, he called back, telling her where to find shade. Mark, a former Marine radio operator, was focused on finding a tow truck, she said. "He was trying to help us," Tina Redweik said.
It was the last time she saw her husband of 24 years.
Dehydrated and increasingly concerned, Tina Redweik returned to their truck and drank the rest of the soda she had shared with her husband. She knew she had to get water. She sipped fluid from the windshield-wiper tank.
Mark never returned.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 1
Mark Redweik had made it to the tiny railroad town of Daggett, 12 miles southeast of Barstow. He found a tow company but couldn't afford the $300 fee.
"He would get very frustrated about money. He gets very emotional when he can't get something he needs," daughter Michelle Redweik said.
Redweik spent $7.69 on two sodas, water, a bag of chips and a candy bar at the Desert Market in Daggett. He complained about the outrageous cost of towing to Yousuf Khawaldeh, the market's owner. Khawaldeh offered to call a friend who would tow the truck for $50. But Redweik refused, then moved on.
"He said, 'What I'm going to do is walk over there and try and get it out,'" Khawaldeh said. "Those were his exact words. And then he left and went back out there."
THURSDAY, JUNE 2
After spending two days alone in the truck, Tina Redweik set out to find help.
"Shade, water, phone. Hill after hill. More desert. Shade, water, phone," she repeated over and over in her head.
Around noon, she stumbled across Highway 247 and flagged down a motorist, who took the dehydrated woman to Lucerne Valley. She called authorities.
More than 50 sheriff's deputies canvassed the area on foot, horseback and motorcycles. They surveyed the desert from helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft. They covered an estimated 10,000 square miles during the three-day search.
They turned up nothing.
Volunteers handed out fliers with Mark Redweik's picture. Investigators screened video footage from Las Vegas casinos, hoping to catch a glimpse of their missing man.
"People do strange things when they're dehydrated and they're lost," said Sgt. Doug Hubbard of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. "But typically people don't get separated."
A truck driver said Redweik flagged him down for a ride to Las Vegas. The driver wasn't going to Las Vegas, but he took Redweik 15 miles north and dropped him off near Dolores Lake, Hubbard said.
That was the last anyone saw of Mark.
SATURDAY, JUNE 4
With no sign of Mark Redweik in the desert and new information that he could be hitchhiking 100 miles to Las Vegas, authorities called off their search despite pleas from his family.
SATURDAY, AUG. 20
An off-road motorcyclist found Redweik's body in the area where searchers had been looking. He had an unopened pack of Marlboro Lights in his shirt pocket - the kind his wife smokes. And he had the camera.
"He was coming back for me," Tina Redweik said. "He wasn't going to leave me out there."
That man wasn't very smart. He should've had a spare tire, lacking that, he should've paid the money to have his car towed. The desert is a place of solitude, but must be respected. 100 degree temps is not to be taken lightly without the proper preparation. Unfortunately, he made all of the wrong choices, and paid for it with his life.
water water water
let people know where you are going.
Many also say never ever leave your vehicle.
Don't expect that cellphones will work more than a few miles off the Interstates.
The desert is unforgiving.
I generally recommend 2 vehicles. And if I go in one, I don't get more than 5 miles off a well traveled road or the railroad tracks.
I carry a GI shovel in the truck all the time, and a real shovel with a real handle ALL the time. High lift jack whenever I go off road even in as mundane an environment as Cajon Pass while train watching.
I'm even thinking about some matting or strips of chain link fencing or the like for putting under the tires. I too have run into that treacherous sand and some areas of gravel that was just as bad.