July 20, 2012

A Missing Person's Case with a Happy Ending

Scotty Meyer - FOUND!
I'd like to take a moment to tell you about a missing person case that recently happened here in Minnesota. While I usually try not to editorialize, I think this case is helpful in showing how various resources can band together effectively as a team and, in a coordinated effort, help find a missing person.

At about 1 p.m. on July 3, I happened to catch a Facebook message from a former junior high school classmate now living in Prescott, Wis. She has an autistic son and is very close to the Meyer family, also of Prescott, who have an autistic son, Scotty. Scotty was missing.

Scotty's mother had been talking to an air conditioner repairman around noon when he slipped outside, possibly with his two older autistic brothers, and then wandered off. His mother had been looking for him without any luck and the Pierce County sheriff's office had been called in. The messages on Facebook urged people to be on the look out for him. Then, within the hour, a search command center had been mobilized.

The situation was particulary urgent. This summer's weather has been unseasonably hot with record high temperatures. That day was particularly brutal--nearing one hundred degrees with high humidity and a high UV index. Adding to the sense of urgency was the fact that Scotty was non-verbal and only five years old. The area where he disappeared was only 200 yards from railroad tracks and the Mississippi River, both attractive points of interest for a child.

So I was simply heartsick to learn at 3 p.m. that Scotty still hadn't been found. The heat and sun were so intense; I worried that this little boy had been outside far too long without water or that he may have tried to go swimming in the river. Both sounded grim.

It lifted my spirits to hear that hundreds of volunteers, many from my home town, had been turning out to help the sheriff's office search. It was the day before a holiday with record heat and people only wanted to help. Many brought in bottled water, snacks and tents for the searchers. Others showed up on horseback or with dogs and ATVs. They stumbled down hills and fought through wooded areas in the heat to help find this little boy.

By about 6 p.m., I was finally available to help search, so I checked Facebook for another update. I learned that volunteers were being turned away. A professional that I know in search and rescue said this sometimes happens when the number of searchers becomes unmanageable. It made sense. The sheriff had also decided to bring in additional resources, such as heat-seeking helicopters, for the night search. I was relieved that the search hadn't yet been called off. But by the time night fell, I was painfully aware that there was a scared little boy outside in the dark not knowing how to find his way home. And parents who didn't know where their son was. It effected me deeply; I couldn't sleep.

My hopes were dashed the following day to learn that he still hadn't been found during the night. How could the helicopters not find him?

As I ate breakfast, I worried that because it was now the Fourth of July, few volunteers would turn out to search for day two. An even hotter day was also expected. But once again, the kindness of humanity surprised me. I turned on the morning news to learn that hundreds of people had turned out at Prescott High School, ready to board buses to go to the search area. According to the Pioneer Press, "The volunteers were to be sent out in shifts, staying cool in the school's air-conditioned basement on breaks. A local grocer donated water. Tubs of Gatorade sat on tables and fans blasted the hallways."

One of the volunteers who came back for a second day was Jason Moser, a construction worker and father of two from Ellsworth, Wis., along with his golden retriever, Autumn. He had arrived that morning about 6 a.m., and after searching for two hours, took Autumn down to the river to cool off. Afterward, the pair headed back into the woods. After 5 or 10 minutes, the dog headed off in one direction and Moser followed her. He then heard a small, muffled whimper coming from under a tree on a steep hill. It was Scotty. As Moser kneeled down, Scotty grabbed his water bottle and took a big drink. He was dehydrated, sunburned, and had many mosquito bites and deer ticks, but he was healthy and in good condition.

"I told him, 'Let's get you back to your parents.' He didn't want to move or go anywhere," Moser told the Pioneer Press. "You could tell he was a little scared, a little weak."

Moser called 911 and shouted for help, then texted his wife, Melissa, with the good news.

I'm posting this story because, two weeks later, I am still touched by the number of heroes who showed up to make a difference to one missing person. I am pleased to hear about such a large and complicated search being coordinated so well. And I'm glad to hear of a happy ending.

Photo Credit: Jason Moser.
Republished from Twin Cities.com.


Olson, Rochelle. (2012, July 4). Volunteer's dog finds missing 5-year-old Wisconsin boy. Pioneer Press. Retrieved July 20, 2012 from http://www.startribune.com/local/east/161351225.html?refer=y

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