Incident 79/2009

This evening at 20.46hrs the team was paged by Lancashire Constabulary Force Control Room, regards a developing search in the Sunnyhurst Woods area of Darwen for a man reported to have fallen down a steep wooded slope.

With regards to the known circumstances of this incident, our Team Leader in consultation with the Force Incident Manager decided to call out the team and rendezvous initially at Darwen Police Station.

A full team pager call out was made at 20.52hrs, with 27x team members responding to the call.

Our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE met up with the Police Officer in charge at Darwen Police Station at 21.40hrs, establishing that the missing man had been walking in the company of a colleague in the dark and at approximately 19.30hrs had fallen down a steep wooded banking in the Sunnyhurst Woods area, his companion initially raising the alarm with the mans family, the Police being made aware of the fall at around 20.10hrs.

A search control was established at the car park entrance to the top section of Sunnyhurst Woods just beyond the Sunnyhurst Inn, Darwen, with team members assembling as Police continued their initial search efforts to try and locate the fallen man.

A joint Police and Bolton MRT party was sent to the area, in the company of the fallen mans colleague, where the 30 year old Darwen man was reported to have fallen from, and very quicly found a ’slide’ mark down the slope.
A thorough investigation of this revealed no sign of the missing man, and the search area was widened in case suffering from injury he had wandered off elsewhere.

Team members, Police, Police Dog assets and the Lancashire Constabulary Air Support Unit helicopter were all involved in a search of the Sunnyhurst Woods and Park area, as the evening drew on.

The Team even deployed two hand held thermal imaging cameras, loaned to the search effort by Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service Darwen Fire Station, in a effort to establish the missing man was not lying injured within the dense shrubs and trees in part of the woods and park.

View through the Heat Seeking camera from LF&RS

By 01.20hrs an intensive search of the area had drawn a blank and with no trace of the missing man found the search was called off to possibly recommence at daybreak in full light, whilst Police enquiries would continue throughout the early hours of the morning.

Team members ready to respond as a evacuation party, if the subject was found

By 02.30hrs in the morning all our assets had returned to our two vehicle bases with most members getting to bed around 03.00hrs. Our Team Leader was subsequently contacted by Police to be informed the missing man had turned up at his home address at around 03.05hrs, very cold and with minor injuries, reporting that following his fall he had become disorientated in the dark and walked out of the woods in the wrong direction entirely, becoming lost, and eventually realising where he was he made his way home. We established that he was out of all the areas being searched during the night and early hours of the morning.

The following assets were involved in this search:

  • Bolton MRT 27x members, our four Land Rover Mountain Rescue Ambulances and our Control Trailer.
  • Lancashire Constabulary,
    • 1x Operational Support Unit,
    • 2x Police General Purpose Dog Units,
    • Divisional Officers and
    • the Air Support Unit helicopter Oscar November 99