Police search praised after finding missing man, Bodmin
Police and National Police Air Service teams praised for extensive search
A rescue operation has been praised after a pensioner, who went missing on Friday 2 September 2016, was located on moorland by the National Police Air Service (NPAS) helicopter two days after he went missing.
Derek Dilworth, 85 years, was reported missing by his wife on the evening of Friday 2September 2016. He had last been seen by his wife in the garden of their property which lies on the edge of Bodmin Moor, north of Liskeard, Cornwall.
Tactical Flight Officer of the National Police Air Service, Adrian Taylor, said: “After an initial search by his wife, Patricia Dilworth, the police were called as there was growing concern for Derek’s welfare due to his age and dementia.
“Various searches from the air and on the ground were made on that night but Derek could not be found and searches continued throughout the Saturday.
“The NPAS helicopter attended again on the Saturday but due to the worsening weather, it had to abandon the search and return to base. It was a miserable day with low cloud clinging to the moorland exacerbated by mist and cold driving rain.
“Further ground searches by police teams including dogs and divers (there are disused mine shafts and deep water-filled quarries in the area) and volunteer rescue groups continued until dark when for safety reasons, the search was suspended until first light on the Sunday.
“On the morning of Sunday 4 September, Derek was still missing and everyone feared the worse in view of the terrible weather and time elapsed. Following further discussion between the Police Lost Person Search Manager (LPSM) and a ‘gut’ feeling by the police helicopter crew at NPAS Exeter, the aircraft took off from its base to carry out further searches for Derek.”
On arriving at the scene, the plan from the helicopter crew was to search the moorland above the house as this was an area which the crew thought that Derek was most likely to be. After a minute of arriving on the scene, Derek was spotted by the TFO Adrian Taylor.
“He was motionless lying on the ground just under a line of trees about quarter of a mile from his house. After a few seconds, TFO Karen Elliot who was operating the camera noticed a slight movement from Derek’s arm as he tried to get our attention. We immediately updated the ground units and also requested an ambulance, deciding at the same time to land to give first aid to Derek.
“The pilot (Capt Ian Griffiths) did an extraordinary job at hover deplaning, so that I could jump out of the helicopter as it could not land on the sloping and uneven ground on the moor.”
Adrian Taylor ran over to Derek who had just been joined by Police Constable Verity Edwards. Verity had been on the ground as part of the police response looking for Derek and had been close to the area when the helicopter spotted him.
“Derek was clearly very unwell (having been out on the moor for 2 nights). He was extremely cold and wet. Derek was unable to speak but was obviously relieved to have been found. He appeared to have fallen over on a slope, collapsed and had been unable to get up.
“PC Edwards did a sterling job at reassuring Derek and made him as comfortable as possible whilst I went to the nearest lane and directed the rescue group to the scene.”
The Dartmoor Rescue Group took over care of Derek with their paramedic who was able to further diagnose injuries and give the appropriate care.
By this time, the NPAS helicopter had found a field about half a mile away that was flat enough to land and had access from the road.
Derek was then moved to the helicopter and taken with a paramedic to Derriford Hospital, Plymouth.
More than 50 search and rescue volunteers and three search dog teams joined police in the hunt for Mr Dilworth and teams have been praised for their hard work.
Devon and Cornwall Police Lost Person Search Manager [LSPM] Paul Freeman said: “I was amazed to see in excess of 50 members of these teams arrive on site including specialist air scenting dog handlers, fast water teams and cave rescue teams. Bolstering our own search ability and specialist departments, we cannot praise the groups and individuals assistance enough.
“As an LPSM my role is to plan and manage the search strategy for missing persons and co-ordinate both our own and specialist partner agencies available to me including NPAS and the Search and Rescue Teams.
“On Saturday morning I had already requested the support of the National Police Air Service and within minutes of that request I was contacted by the crew who having been to the location the previous night were already aware and wanting to assist.
“In direct contact with the crew on Sunday morning we discussed the weather and probable search areas for them, the crew were eager to cover much of the high level open moorland much of which they had been unable to view on previous flights due to the weather and although the areas would not stand out as likely places for Derek to be, having spent a lot of time speaking with his family I was becoming increasingly sure he would be the one to break the mould so to speak.”
“Within minutes of reaching the area NPAS spotted Derek in a tree line just above one of the search teams. I have no doubt that the search team were on the right path and would have located Derek eventually but given the weather conditions since his disappearance the time frame of over 40 hours and Derek’s physical condition I am convinced that the flight crews find was the difference between life and death for Derek.
“The risks and determination of the NPAS crew during the weekend most certainly made the difference on this occasion, it is a massive resource that we are lucky to have access to.”
Derek Dilworth is continuing to make good progress as he recovers in hospital.
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