On Sunday morning, July 6, 2014, at 2:48 AM, SC Foothills Search & Rescue received a call from Greenville County Sheriff’s Office. An elderly man was missing in Jones Gap. Seventy-nine years of age, Carl had been out butterfly watching. Per the news, he was last seen not far from a trail around 5:00 PM.
Carl had been reported missing at 8:00 PM Saturday evening, July 5. Three fire departments, the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office, Park Rangers, and the Emergency Response Team were contacted. They did their jobs – and did them well. But Carl was lost with no hint of where he was hidden.
SC Foothills Search & Rescue was called to assist with the search. The whole team responded: Georgia (Bloodhound), Joey (Labrador Retriever), Fresko and Leo (German Shepherds). Each K9 had two human members to accompany them as handlers and flankers: Brent, Belinda, Ellen, Hunnicutt, Dave, Cheri, and Jamie. Each K9 team was given a search assignment. K9 Georgia took off down a closed trail with handler Jamie and Cheri as her “flanker,” along with a park ranger. To get the full picture, Georgia is a petite Bloodhound, weighing in around 70 pounds, Jamie is 4’ 11” and tops out at 100 pounds, Cheri is a bit taller (a wee bit), and close to the same weight. You may be thinking these are lightweights, but you’d be terribly wrong. The entire Foothills Search & Rescue team, as well as the park rangers, are extremely well trained at what they do.
Team Georgia headed into an area of low probability. It was not likely an elderly gentlemen, or anyone for that matter, would venture into this part of Jones Gap. The path led them towards a deep ravine, covered in mountain laurel, vines, and filled with briars. The ranger warned them that this was a snake infested area. Jamie stopped to put on her snake chaps.
Suddenly, they heard a grunt. One person thought it sounded like a deer, another guessed a cow, and the third thought a duck.
“That’s human.” One of the three uttered these words. The park ranger yelled out, and Cheri called out the name of the missing man. “Carl? Carl?” They heard a faint response. “Help.” The sound came from a fifty-foot impenetrable drop-off.
Cheri remained at the top of the hill with K9 Georgia. Jamie and the ranger made their way through the briars and overgrowth, in desperate need of a machete. Finally, they found Carl hanging upside down by his ankle. He had been hanging there for approximately thirteen hours. His body was heavily taxed; it’s a picture they’re likely not to forget. His camera and binoculars were dangling from his neck in the midst of the mountain laurel. This seventy-nine year old man survived a thirteen hour dangle. The human will to live is staggering.
The rescue personnel attempted to do their job – get in and rescue Carl. Because of the power lines and the vines, a helicopter rescue was impossible. Jamie and the ranger had to keep him stabilized. The ranger cut him down and Jamie (the 4’11”, 100 pound woman) caught him. From that point, Jamie had to keep him alert and hydrated. Additionally, because of the creek nearby, Carl was in danger of hypothermia. The other search teams and rescue personnel were requested to the area to bring machetes, additional water, blankets, and rope rescue gear.
Jamie talked to him constantly during the following three hours. Carl told her he had lost his wallet with $100, and his car keys. She calmly informed him that he wouldn’t need his car keys – they had to break his car window in order to get his scent for the dogs. Then she lightheartedly asked if he would take them all out to dinner after his rescue. He grunted, “No dinner. Pizza.”
Dave, Jamie’s father, is not the type of man who gets rattled. Having known him for close to thirty years, I can’t imagine anything shaking him up too much. He states the conditions were treacherous to get to the hiker. The area in which Carl was found is in complete overgrowth and without Georgia’s nose, the training of Jamie, Cheri, and the ranger, and the ability for Carl to still be able to call out, the search may not have been successful. It was extremely dangerous for the rescuers. He believes – and rightly so – that the three people and K9 Georgia who rescued Carl are heroes, along with all the searchers. Indeed they are. No medals are likely to be bestowed. The five state certified Search and Rescue teams do this regularly on a volunteer basis. All five are dedicated teams that help when called – leave jobs, beds, dates, planned events to find our lost family members – with one phone call.
The Foothills team is very impressed with the action of the fire departments, the Sheriff’s Office, park personnel, the emergency response team, and especially Ranger Elliott who flanked with Team Georgia. Everyone worked extremely well together to save the life of the butterfly watcher.
I’m not acquainted with the funding sources of the other parts of this extraordinary search and rescue, but in regards to SC Foothills Search & Rescue as well as the other four extraordinary teams, they are a 501(3)c, and do not get paid to search for missing people. The team believes that they are held to the same standards at searches as paid rescuers so they train in all aspects of search and rescue, like emergency medical, ropes rescue, search management, mantracking, and K9 handling. The extensive training costs time, money and dedication. They exist completely on the good graces of the pocketbooks of friends and organizations who appreciate what they do.
Why do they do it? Dave says he always has to wonder how it would feel if it was his daughter, son, father, or other family member lost with no one to find them. Someone has to find them. He loves training dogs, and does so with a passion. He trains and sells cadaver and tracking dogs, and works his second K9 who excels in finding human remains. What he really wants to do is find these people while they are alive. Last Sunday, they did just that. Jamie stayed with Carl for three hours waiting for the additional rescuers and extraction gear to get to them. I didn’t mention that Jamie is the mother of two small children. Her husband cared for them while she hunted for Carl. That takes a rather large heart – in such a small body.
If you want to help SC Foothills Search & Rescue, please send a check to the following: SC FOOTHILLS SEARCH & RESCUE, INC., 139 COOPER LAKE RD, SIMPSONVILLE, SC 29681. You can also donate on their website: http://www.foothillssar.org/. Someday it may be a family member of yours who needs rescuing.