Incident 40/2009

At 03.27hrs in the early hours of this morning the team was paged by Greater Manchester Police for our immediate assistance with the search for a missing 77 years old man in the Debdale area of Manchester.

A full team member pager call out was made at 04.06hrs to RVP at either our base / HQ immediately or the Debdale Park search RVP for circa 05.00hrs. Given that this area is on the boundary between our operational area and that of our colleagues at Oldham MRT, combined with the time and urgency of the call, our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE liaised directly with the Team Leader of Oldham MRT, Mick Nield, for his teams assistance.

En route to the Search RVP our Team Leader was informed that coincidentally in exactly the same area a 10 year old boy was also missing, giving the Police double concern. As a result of this new information, our Team Leader contacted Andy Simpson, Team Leader of Rossendale and Pendle MRT to put their team on standby to assist us and Oldham MRT should the need arise.

The first Bolton MRT and Oldham MRT members arrived at the Debdale Outdoor Centre RVP, on the shores of Gorton Lower Reservoir / Debdale Park, off the A57, Manchester at around 05.00hrs, to be met by surprisingly chilly temperatures of only 3C, and very quickly by 05.20hrs the first MRT searchers were deployed into Debdale Park and surrounding area.

Greater Manchester Police officers continued with their search operations and enquiries which had commenced a few hours previous to our involvement, with the GMP Air Support Unit helicopter already having overflown the area, combined with foot patrols searching nearby streets.

As the morning went on Search and Rescue Dog Association assets were also mobilised from the PDMRO and MPSRO, along with an early call back to the Rossendale and Pendle MRT to now join in the double search operation.

By 09.00hrs a very large search operation was taking place, co ordinated from our Control trailer, covering the Debdale Park and surrounding area, consisting of an urban park, open grasslands and meadows, densely wooded areas, two large reservoirs and smaller water bodies, allotments, grazing land, and a number of linear parkways / pathways on the sites of former railway lines and a former canal.

A large number of clothing finds were made and investigated, none ultimately related to the two missing persons, and as the morning went on concern was mounting for the well being of the missing man and missing boy.

The Greater Manchester Police Air Support Unit helicopter returned to once more search the area, as the Police investigation continued. Given the vulnerability of both persons missing, the press became involved with reporters from the Manchester Evening News present, and TV crews from ITV Granada and Channel M attending.

Our Team Leader was authorised by GMP to give interviews, and was then interviewed and filmed by ITV and Channel M for their morning and mid day news broadcasts.

By 12 noon, the large combined GMP and MRT / SARDA search operation had concluded its first phase, and some ’object finds’ on the shores of the reservoirs were awaiting further investigation, when news was received that the missing ten year old had been located by GMP outside the search areas.
Also at this same time the missing man had been traced to Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport, some miles away, where in a confused state he had been admitted, but his identity had been unclear.

The search operation was therefore immediately stood down, with most assets leaving the area. However there remained the checking out of clothing items found on the immediate shore line of part of Gorton Upper Reservoir, which though unrelated to the two missing persons who had now turned up, were causing some concern, leading to the Police Underwater Search Unit conducting a wade and dive check of the water immediately near to the clothing items. Bolton MRT assets remained in place till this operation was concluded at 14.00hrs with thankfully nothing found and nobody reported missing!

This incident was concluded with all our team members and vehicles back to our base by 15.30hrs.

The following assets were deployed on this ’double’ misper search operation.

  • Greater Manchester Police Air Support Unit helicopter.
  • Greater Manchester Police Divisional and Tactical Aid Unit resources.
  • Greater Manchester Police CID.
  • Greater Manchester Police 2x Missing Person Search Managers.
  • Police Underwater Search Unit.
  • Bolton MRT, 17x team members,
    • four team Land Rover Mountain Rescue Ambulances,
    • Control Trailer,
    • Catering Trailer.
    • We provided search planning and control for this incident, mapping, search co ordination and recording. Our Catering Unit trailer was about to be brought into operation at the search stand down.
    • Our Deputy Leader Geoff Seddon, a very experienced canoeist / kayaker, conducted a canoe search of the Gorton Lower Reservoir during this operation.
  • Oldham MRT, 13x members,
    • two team Land Rover Mountain Rescue Ambulances.
  • Rossendale and Pendle MRT, 14x members,
    • two team Land Rover Mountain Rescue Ambulances.
  • Search and Rescue Dog Association teams included
    • handler Eleanor Sherwin, Search dog Pepper and ’navigator’ Peter Farnell, both from Calder Valley SRT,
    • handler Ian Burley and Search Dog Anya from Kinder MRT,
    • handler Wayne Thackery, Search Dog Dodge and ’navigator’ Nigel Smith, both from Woodhead MRT,
    • handler Steve Ward and Search Dog Bryn from Oldham MRT.

Thanks are expressed to the management and staff at the McDonalds Restaurant (Debdale) which was situated opposite our Search Control / RVP, and who from their opening at 06.00hrs right through to the completion of the search, very kindly supplied everyone involved in this search operation with hot drinks completely free, whenever they were required. Debdale McDonalds also very kindly discounted their meal prices for all the searchers involved, as well as allowing the use of their toilet facilities.

For the Bolton MRT, Rossendale & Pendle MRT, and SARDA personnel, it was a case of some much needed sleep for those lucky enough not to have to go into work to catch up on what remained of their days employment.

Not so for the Oldham MRT though !!

No sooner had they returned to Oldham when they were called out to conduct a dramatic urban vertical at heights rescue of a site operative from a construction platform high up on a building under construction on St Mary’s Way, Oldham. GMF&RS had been called to this rescue but their Hydraulic Ladder Platform could not reach the trapped site worker, and so the Oldham MRT employed their considerable rope rescue expertise to effect a very quick rescue.

And as a final footnote, as our members were about to depart Debdale for their journey back to Bolton, who should turn up to see them but the missing 10 year old boy himself with a friend, and the comment ” I’m the boy you were looking for, I’ve just come to say thank you and sorry for all the trouble I’ve caused !”