Thanks to a special radio transmitter bracelet device, a Parksville man was found less than two kilometres from home after going missing Saturday (May 1).
At approximately 2:40 p.m., Arrowsmith Search and Rescue (ASAR) was notified of a missing 79-year-old man with dementia. The man, who lives just south of downtown Parksville, reportedly went for a walk and was then reported missing.
The man was wearing a Project Lifesaver transmitter, a signal emitting bracelet-like device used for locating people with autism, Alzheimer’s, dementia and other cognitive disorders and who are prone to wandering.
Rescuers were able to locate him by use of an antenna receiver after approximately two-and-a-half hours. The ground receivers used can scan up to 400 kilometres in search of a specific frequency.
The manager of ASAR, Ken Neden, confirmed 25 SAR members contributed to Saturday’s rescue.
“We had three teams searching with the Project Lifesaver transmitters. We had probably four or five at the base, and the rest were doing regular foot searches,” he said. “We needed to conduct a normal search too, because there’s always the possibility the transmitter fails.”
Since the man had a “head start” before ASAR was notified, they were unable to pick up a signal near his residence. From there, members expanded their search outwards, in three different directions, from downtown Parksville.
One of the teams with an antenna attached to the roof of a vehicle picked up his signal while driving along Highway 19, just south of the Alberni Highway. The man was located walking northbound on Highway 19 shortly after his signal was received.
Neden said that by the time they found him he was approximately 1.5 kilometres from home.
“He walked a lot farther than that because we figured he went through some wooded trails. The members did say that he was aware that he was lost and was trying to figure his way home, when he eventually came out to the Inland highway.”
Neden confirmed that while the man had sore feet and was slightly dehydrated, he was otherwise in good condition and very happy to be taken home.
Had ASAR not been able to locate him with ground receivers, Neden said the next step involved a helicopter fixed with wide-range antenna that could potentially reach up to 16 kilometres.
Since 2014, ASAR have used the Project Lifesaver receivers several times to locate missing individuals.
Two years ago, one of their most recent searches found another Parksville man within 12 minutes by use of the Project Lifesaver receivers.