On June 14, 1997, Border Patrol Agent Stephen C. Starch and Senior Patrol Agent Aric Curtis were patrolling the border area south of State Route 94 in the Dulzura, California, area. During the midafternoon hours, they found tracks of suspected illegal immigrants in the rugged mountains of San Diego's East County. Fully aware of terrain obstacles and even though their shift was almost over, Agents Starch and Curtis forged ahead, scaling the side of a mountain. Agent Starch separated from Agent Curtis to cover more territory.
During the next hour, Agent Curtis tried numerous times to contact Agent Starch by radio but was unsuccessful. He contacted Supervisory Border Patrol Agents Wayne Rock and Brian Brown, who also tried to contact Agent Starch, but to no avail.
A ground and air search for Agent Starch was begun. Around 6:30 p.m., Agent Curtis discovered Agent Starch at the base of a cliff. He had sustained severe injuries and was not breathing. A medical helicopter from Mercy Air arrived at the scene, along with a U.S. Coast Guard rescue helicopter. Agent Curtis began administering CPR and was assisted by others. Because of the remoteness and the rough terrain, a higher medical authority could not arrive before dark. After nearly an hour of CPR, the attending Emergency Medical Technician consulted with the Flight Doctor from Mercy Air by radio and pronounced Agent Starch deceased due to the severity of his injuries. The next day, investigators determined that Agent Starch had accidentally fallen about 150 feet to his death.
Agent Starch was a graduate of Texas Tech University and the Border Patrol Academy, Class 295. At the time of his death, he was assigned to the San Diego Sector, El Cajon Station, Sign-Cut Unit.