• 45°

Rowan County Special Operations Task Force holds inaugural ‘Lost at the Lake’ exercise

SALISBURY — Someone went missing in the woods on purpose last week, playing a profound game of hide-and-seek with local rescue personnel as they tackled a staged training scenario to put their methods into practice.

Emergency personnel weaved a scenario that included a man with medical issues, a recent history of mood problems expressed via social media posts, a vehicle left at a campground that looked lived-in and a few recent photographs. According to the scenario, the man went for a hike and emergency personnel believed he got lost and experienced some kind of medical event.

The goal was to find him and get him out of the woods alive.

James Stokes, a Kannapolis firefighter, was that man.

Stokes volunteered to get lost in the woods on Thursday and camp out there through Sunday for the exercise. Stokes is trained to do this and he was staying in touch with emergency personnel throughout the exercise. As of Saturday morning he had been located once by a bloodhound brought in by the state.

Rowan County Emergency Services Battalion Chief Bradley Dean said this is a chance to review previous material and work on new skills at the same time. It was the first exercise of this kind the county has hosted. It plans to make it an annual affair.

“All the agencies throughout the area have been really supportive,” Dean said.

There were about 20 entities involved in the exercise, and it was sponsored by Rowan County Special Operations Task Force as well as Rowan Rescue. The task force is made up of eight local fire departments and Rowan County Emergency Services.

Rescuers were split into teams and sent into the woods. There was a boat and a ladder truck deployed as well as a helicopter from the N.C. State Highway Patrol.

When Stokes was found, the group was debriefed, Stokes broke camp and the team who found him left along another route so the exercise could continue.

In the real world, a missing person is a “law enforcement event” that requires collaboration with rescuers. For a rescue like the training scenario, a county starts by calling in local resources, expands its requested assistance to mutual aid partners in surrounding areas and, eventually, the state.

During the training, personnel staked out the woods using search methods learned previously and gathered clues. A major trove of clues for Stokes’ whereabouts was the vehicle left at the campgrounds at Dan Nicholas Park.

Charlie Williams, of Pineland Resources Inc., is an Army veteran whose organization teaches rescue and law enforcement personnel how to track people. Williams said his organization works with rescuers and law enforcement all over the state.  For this exercise, Pineland was teaching, observing and preparing feedback on how the rescuers can improve.

Williams on Saturday demonstrated a technique for gathering clues from a vehicle without harming the integrity of the scene. He approached the vehicle in straight, clear lines that could easily be sketched by an observer, started his observations on the outside and used mirrors to see the inside of the vehicle before opening doors and seeing what he could observe standing outside.

Conserving the scene is important for law enforcement purposes. It can be critical for maintaining a subject’s scent so a dog can be used to track someone.

As part of the exercise, the car was a trove of articles of clothing and other clues.

Williams said there are several exercises like this held throughout the state, but most of the state-sponsored ones have been canceled since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Comments

Crime

Two more charged for operating illegal gambling businesses

Education

A.L. Brown celebrates seniors with signing day

Business

Rebounding, but not recovered: Rowan County tourism begins challenging path toward normalcy

High School

High school baseball: Padgett leads Mustangs; 100th win for West coach Graham

Coronavirus

RSS superintendent, Board of Health discuss strategies for increasing student vaccination rates

Nation/World

Gas stations report shortages as pipeline shutdown drags on

News

Lawyers: Black man didn’t drive into deputies who shot him

Nation/World

Liz Cheney says Trump and GOP backers threaten democracy

Coronavirus

Rowan Health Department clarifies county’s COVID-19 death total is 301

Landis

Landis approves new land development ordinance, zoning map

Landis

Landis approves body camera, stun gun purchase for public safety officers

Crime

One charged, another dead on sheriff’s most wanted list

Crime

No injuries after car shot eight times on Old Concord Road

Education

RSS talks first steps for new federal relief totaling $66 million

China Grove

Gary’s Barbecue staff, customers look back at 50 years

News

Salisbury Lions Club names Person of the Year, Lion of the Year at 78th annual banquet

Education

Student COVID-19 numbers show first decline since plan A

High School

High school golf: Fowler competes in state tournament

News

Amazon announces new distribution center for North Carolina

News

House passes bill to bar Cooper from mandating COVID shot

Coronavirus

Rowan County sees death 302 from COVID-19; Health Department to host final mass vaccine clinic

Ask Us

Ask Us: What happened to work on South Fulton Street home?

Crime

Blotter: Woman says she was shot in hand on Lincolnton Road

Crime

Rowan Sheriff’s Office charges Salisbury man with operating illegal gambling business