Bay Area man, 2 kids missing in Sierra found safe

SIERRA COUNTY, Calif. -- An Oakland barber and his two young children who were reported missing on Tuesday were found safe Thursday night, according to a Sierra County sheriff's deputy.

Nicholas Vlahos, 41, had been camping in western Sierra County with his 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter, according to the sheriff's office.

They were found "in good spirits" around 8 p.m., Deputy Matt Boyd said. "They're all safe," Boyd said.

Vlahos' stepfather Bon Wehmeyer and his mother were also on the camping trip with the family. They began to worry about Vlahos after he took the children on an off-roading trip up a windy, rough road and failed to contact his parents eight hours later. They then notified police.

"My hope is that we find them soon," Wehmeyer said. "It's really been very worrying. We need to get those kids out of there."

The search wad concentrated on the road Vlahos was last seen driving when he left on his off-roading trip. Vlahos has some off-roading experience and has a new black Toyota Tundra that can handle a rough ride. The area where Vlahos and his children disappeared is out of range of cell service.

"This area, for the next 36, 48 miles, you don't have any cell service, except for in the town sites and it's very spotty there," said Sierra County sheriff's deputy Matt Boyd.

Before their disappearance, Vlahos, his children and other family members were camping at Fiddle Creek campground. They all left Tuesday and Vlahos planned to take his children off-roading in his Toyota Tundra. He texted a friend a map of his route. He told his parents he would return to the Bay Area Tuesday night, but he never did.

With the second full day of searching, Sierra County rescuers received helped from the California Highway Patrol, Nevada and Plumas County sheriff's departments, state OES and two National Guard Black Hawk helicopters that are equipped with a device that can detect heat in a search area.

Don Epperson is with the Downieville Fire Department search and rescue team, which is equipped with special dirt bikes designed to handle rugged terrain. He said he thinks the family was in an accident, but he isn't certain.

Vlahos' family said he is enthusiastic about off-roading, though he doesn't have a lot of experience. His family is confident he will find his way out.

Vlahos, his wife and two children live in the Millsmont neighborhood of Oakland. Neighbors, Thursday, had a lot of nice things to say about his family.

Vlahos' sister, who lives in New York, was planning to fly out to join the family. The sister said Vlahos' wife was visiting her own mother outside of California. There was no word on whether she was en route to California. The couple was expecting their third child.

Vlahos works at the popular Temescal Alley Barber Shop in Oakland. Those inside the shop Thursday were reluctant to speak with ABC7 News. Vendors from other neighboring shops expressed their concern over his disappearance.

"Shock, shock and dismay. I mean, I'm worried for him. I'm worried for the kids. I want them to be found quickly," said Brandon Rafka of The CRO Caf.

"I only met the kids once or twice. Nick's been in here a lot to buy ice cream for co-workers and friends and he's just a really, really nice guy," said Tori McDougal of Curbside Creamery.

Anna Worden is from the Millsmont neighborhood where the family used to live. She remembers when Vlahos repaired the fence for an elderly neighbor.

"When she came home he had rebuilt her fence for her. The pieces were broken. He had added a few pieces of his own, but he had gone out of his way to do that for his neighbor, a kind gesture," Worden said.

"We sure hope he comes back safely and I think this story getting out gives some exposure to it and anyone who has seen him, or knows where he is, we hope comes forward with some information," said Oakland resident Amy Jensen.

Neighbors say he Vlahos once worked at Pixar Animation Studios as an art production assistant.

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