So Far, So Good
This post is the first in several months, not because things have been slow, but rather because they have been extremely busy. We have surpassed 250 search operations where the Virtual Search Planning Process was implemented, resulting in a find rate in excess of 80%. Of note:
Jeremiah Adams, a 25 year old sailor from the USS Nimitz docked in Bremerton, WA, left his ship on May 7, 2018, and drove to Olympic National Park for a day hike. When he failed to return, a search was initiated involving three counties, including Kitsap County, where the Nimitz was docked. On May 11, after four days of search with no leads, I was requested to provide a Virtual Search Plan to Kitsap Co. SAR, primarily to look at this search as if it were the initial operational period. The only point of reference provided was the IPP of the subjects vehicle.
After looking at the search area, and running the subject through the VSP process, we identified two very small and distinct areas on Grey Wolf Trail approximately 1.8 and 1.95 miles from the IPP. One was identified as Cliff Camp on mapping and sent to Kitsap Co SAR. Then nothing...
On Monday, May 14, 2018, I was contacted by Scott Yeager, Kitsap Co SAR, who reported the following. " Your box in the area of Cliff Camp was spot on, as Jeremiah had fallen in the bracketed area noted just northwest of the River. Had we been able to get you on this case sooner, it's likely we would have found Petty Officer Adam's body days sooner, avoiding the risk and expense of inserting two SAR teams on the ridge far to the west via helo as an area of last resort."
The second case was a request for a Virtual Search Plan for David Malinsky out of Las Vegas, NV. On April 14, 2018, Malinsky parked his vehicle at the Deer Creek Trailhead at Mt. Charleston, and went for a day hike. An avid photographer of Bristlecone pines, it was believed he went out to capture photos in the early morning light. When he failed to return to meet relatives for dinner that evening, a search was initiated.
On April 15, a VSP was provided to Las Vegas Metro Search and Rescue with an area identified as Mummy Springs and downslope from the trail leading back to the subject's vehicle. Additionally, I was in Las Vegas and spoke to crews from the initial search period regarding coverages from the prior operation. They were able to provide additional data on Malinsky unknown from data provided for the VSP the day before. We talked at length regarding the primary search area suggested by the VSP process (High probability segment, although no specific values were made of any map segmentation). Search continued under this assumption for several days.
On April 20, 2018, hikers in the area of Mummy Springs, downslope from the trail discovered a body, later identified as Malinsky. The cause of death was both cold related injury, likely hypothermia, dehydration with an underlying condition of hypertension. Yes, in spite of being near Las Vegas in April, the Mt. Charleston area was much colder, and it is probable Malinsky became dehydrated which increased his risk of hypothermia, resulting in difficulty with decision making skills, coordination and muscle movement, and ultimately a fall.
At the end of the day, the VSP process would not have saved the lives of these two individuals. Their tragic endings happened quickly, but the resulting search efforts would have been greatly decreased perhaps if VSP had been integrated early, and followed as part of the comprehensive search planning. Yes, the very best trained searchers can miss a subject in the environment. But imagine if the areas identified through Virtual Search Planning are considered and comprehensively searched with trained resources at the very beginning of operations. It is not only our contention that searches would be shorter, it is statistically true. Perhaps along the way we will also actually find subjects before they expire due to the environment or their injuries. That's certainly worth looking at this process and implementing it whenever possible.