Lost and Found in New Mexico

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Where is Johnny?

Pyramid Peak ( In Red Rock State Park) - Gallup, New Mexico

Scenario: You and your extended family are enjoying a picnic in the forest on the 4th of July. Everyone is relaxed, there's plenty of food and drinks and the kids are having a blast running through the trees. There is a great sense of freedom at being outdoors on a beautiful summer day. The forest is a familiar one, close to town and most of you have been here several times. The altitude starts at about 7000' and rises to 10,000' in some places. There are a few small ponds and a couple of little streams but no huge rushing river. There are ridges rising all around you and canyons off in the distance. Altogether a spectacular view!
Around 1800 hours the sun is starting to fade so everyone starts packing up and rounding up kids. By 1830, someone notices that little Johnny isn't anywhere to be found. You check the cars, the bathrooms and talk to the other kids about where they last saw him. You call his name and honk your car horns with no luck. It's slowly getting darker and a little colder as the sun goes down. Johnny's mother is starting to panic, everyone is milling around looking for him and no one knows what to do next. A couple of men decide to drive down the roads that wind around the area. Still no luck! Finally, someone decides they need to call for help. You find a cell phone signal and call 911. They hook you up to State Police and soon an Officer arrives. He takes down your information and information on Johnny. How old is he, what's he wearing, did he have a jacket, hat, water? It's now almost 2000 hours. The officer tells you that he will be calling out Search and Rescue. Some of the adults take the other children home and the waiting begins.
About 2130, the Incident Commander arrives with a Hasty team of searchers. Some are on foot, others have ATV's that can go down the smaller trails. The IC talks to the family, gets more information and the search begins. Using natural boundaries that would be difficult to walk over or get through, we call this containment, the searchers are sent in 2 different directions. Although Mantrackers are there, the number of children who had been playing makes it difficult to rule out Johnny's footprints from the others, making it almost impossible to get a direction of travel. One of the searchers ask for a scent item from Johnny (a pair of socks, a blanket, a hat, etc.) which is carefully bagged without touching it to preserve the scent if dog teams are called in. Although it is summer it's getting colder and people start to don jackets. One of the volunteers builds a fire and the family fearfully settles in for what hopefully is a short night of searching for 8 year old Johnny...to be continued!


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