Where is Johnny? (continued)
When I last wrote, little 8 year old Johnny was still missing at 2200 hours - going on at least 5-6 hours since the last time anyone remembers seeing him. There are 2 teams in the field looking for him or any signs of which direction he might have gone. One team is an ATV team. They are cutting ahead to the East to see if they can locate any fresh tracks. The tracks in the camp area are impossible to decipher from others tracks but if any are found further away from camp and are about the right size for an 8 year old, we'll know we are going the right direction. The other team, groundpounders, are bushwhacking down to the south. Every 10 minutes they stop, blow their whistles and call Johnny's name. Then they listen for any sound; a whimper, crying, someone calling for help. The IC is at base camp working with the communications team who have just arrived. Because the area has weak to no cell phone signals, the Coms team is linking Ham repeaters in this location to locations all the way to Albuquerque, about 2 hours away. The team is also in constant contact with the teams in the field. They have been advised to check in every 30 minutes unless they locate something. All communications are logged down. Sometimes this is done by hand, but this trailer is equipped with a computer and a program that logs down everything and includes a mapping program so that the areas searched can be marked. There is a public relations person working with the State Police to keep the media and lookie loos away from the area. The PR person will give reports to the media every couple of hours or sooner if there is news. It is now dark, with little moonlight and the teams in the fields are using helmets with headlamps and base camp is set up with electrical lights powered by a generator from the communications trailer. The IC has planned a course of action through the early morning hours. The Area Commander was called and will be trying to get a helicopter or CAP plane at first light. The Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) team in Albuquerque is calling out more teams. They've radioed in that a K-9 team should be arriving around 0300. Other groundpounder teams will be arriving between 0400 and 0700. Several of the operation team members have gone into town to get extra water, food, coffee, etc.
The IC has visited with the family several times, trying to reassure them that everything that can be done is being done. The IC continues to question the family and friends as occasionally new information will surface. One of the children who had been playing with Johnny wears the same brand of shoe and a friend brought the shoes to base camp so that the tread can be seen by the searchers. A picture was sketched of the tread and the field teams have it with them along with the information the parents have given us on Johnny. He has on blue shorts, a red t-shirt, a blue basecall cap, white socks and the tennis shoes. He had a jacket but it was found on the picnic table. It is unknown if he is carrying any food or water. He has no medical conditions and is a normal, young boy with a little fear of the dark but not to easily scared. Base camp has been set up where the family was picnicking in case Johnny should find his way back this direction. Base camps are usually set up at the PLS (Place last seen) unless it is too small or dangerous to remain in the area overnight. There are EMT's at base camp and if Johnny is located and needs medical assistance they will go to him. If he is located and uninjured, he will be brought back to base camp and checked out by the EMT's. An ambulance is on standby about 15 miles from here in the closest town.
Around 2330, Team 1, the groundpounders, radioed that they had found 2 Bubble Yum gum wrappers. The parents were questioned if Johnny had this type of gum and the answer was yes. They had bought some at the store on the way to the picnic. The location of the gum wrappers is given in UTM coordinates from a GPS that the team is carrying. This marks the exact location of the wrappers and if the search goes on a long time and new teams come in they can go right to that location using the coordinates. Because of this information, we feel we have a pretty good sense of the direction he is travelling. Everyone is excited and much more hopeful than a couple of hours ago. To be continued...