75 Searchers, Drone, Helicopter & More Mobilized in Search For Lost Hiker Near Laurel Mill Ski Trail
At 7:35 p.m. Saturday evening, Elkland Sar was requested by the Pa State Police, Ridgway Barracks to assist them with a missing hiker that was out walking his dog. He went missing about one mile west of the Laurel Mill Skiing Trail head area.
St. Marys Police Department K9 unit was working on scene when Elkland Sar arrived on scene. Ridgway Fire Dept. was dispatched for assistance on scene with Ridgway Amb. standing by at their station if assistance was needed on scene. Elkland responded with 16 members to the scene.
Incident Command was established at the Laurel Mill Skiing Area Trail Head. Search crews worked throughout the night searching for the missing individual and his dog. Tactics deployed included; hasty searches, trail searches, attraction, atv/utv and mobile patrols, mantracking, drones with Flir technology and PSP provided Flir aerial support with their helicopter.
Around 3 am, search tasks were scaled back with the drones continuing to search the night. Searchers were given time to rest and get warm at the Command Post, as the temperature was around 20 degrees. Morning came and additional search and rescue resources were called in to assist. Being the second day of bear hunting season, hunters were also starting to work their way back into the woods. New tasks were underway to locate the missing hike.
The Elk County Office of Emergency Services received a call stating a hunter had located the missing hiker and was assisting him to the Command Post. At the Command Post, the hiker was evaluated by the Ridgway Ambulance Service and released him back to his family. The hiker was cold, sore and hungry but otherwise ok. When interviewing the hiker, he told us that after he didn’t hear the helicopter or drone any longer, he used hand sanitizer and a lighter to build a small fire to try to keep warm throughout the night.
As are most searches, this was a group effort to bring this individual home. A listing of the agencies assisting and responding included:
Pa State Police, Investigation Division and Air Division. Elk County Office of Emergency Services, Ridgway Fire DepartmentRidgway Ambulance CorporationAerialjimpa Drone Team, Allegheny National Forest Law Division, PA Game Commission, Cherrytree VFD K9 Sar Team, Cherry Grove VFD K9 Search Team, Pine Creek K-9 Search Unit,and Lost and Hound Search and Rescue. If I forgot to list anyone, please pm me and I will add you to this posting! There were also other resources standing by and ready if needed.
We need to also recognize the many individuals, businesses and the auxiliaries who worked and delivered food and drinks for the searchers! “Thank You” just doesn’t cover the appreciation we have for You!
I thought we would share a few of the statistics for this search. More than 75 people were directly involved with this search. We have calculated that there were over 1,020 manhours dedicated to this search from the time the initial call came in until everyone was back in service. Another interesting number is over 2230 miles were logged supporting this search effort.
As a reminder to everyone who ventures outdoors:
Remember it’s hunting season, make sure you have orange on and are wearing bright colors. Hunters PLEASE, Make sure to correctly identify your target! Everyone should always carry at least a small survival pack when going outdoors, as you never know what could happen to you, even if you do it frequently. If you are lost, make your shelter close to an opening. That way if and when a helicopter or drone are in your area, you can get to that opening and you are easier to see from the air. Make yourself as big as possible. Take your coat off and wave it in the air in the direction of the aerial unit. Just so you are aware, the flir unit usually isn’t looking straight down but usually from a distance and at an angle.
Be Safe Everyone and I hope You have a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving,
Chief of Elkland Search and Rescue