Incident 21/2012

At 21.37hrs this wet and cold evening, with the majority of the team membership on our routine Wednesday night exercise, deployed throughout the moorland valley of Cadshaw Brook, the team was paged by a GMP Missing Person Search Manager to assist with a developing search for a missing 80 year old woman in the Eccles, Manchester, area.

The team was immediately recalled from the exercise to assemble at our Ladybridge Hall Base / HQ.

At the same time our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE, Deputy Team Leader Geoff Seddon and Steve Fletcher who had been at our Base / HQ at the time of the call out, immediately started formulating a search strategy and preparing search area mapping.

With all team members assembled at our Base / HQ from the exercise, the team in five vehicles plus our SAR Boat and Control Trailer, departed at 22.45hrs arriving at Eccles Police Station at 23.00hrs.

Here in the company of attending Police Officers, a thorough briefing from the Police took place.

Team members gather for the Police search briefing at Eccles police station

The 80 year old woman, with dementia, had left her Eccles home address around 14.10hrs and had apparently sought directions to return to her home address from asking at a retail outlet within the Trafford Centre later in the same afternoon, and had then been seen on the outskirts of the Trafford Centre complex in the vicinity of the Bridgewater Canal. (A route ‘home’ relatives informed us she was familiar with)

Given the concern for the well being of this missing woman, and due to the time elapsed since she was reported missing, the help of our colleagues at Rossendale and Pendle MRT was also urgently sought. (Thanks for your tremendous and immediate support)

Planning the initial search areas

Joint MRT / Police intensive search operations commenced shortly after the briefing, with a Search RVP being set up in the B&Q Car Park, Dumplington, just prior to midnight, with the search co-ordinated from our Control Trailer.

Searches took place on the Bridgewater Canal itself, utilising the teams SAR Boat, and all routes the missing woman may have taken to return to her home address.

Team members prepare the boat for a search of the canal banking

Rossendale and Pendle MRT alongside Police Officers were tasked with searching the extensive area surrounding the Trafford Centre shopping complex, including a large amount of densely planted tree and shrub areas.

Meanwhile all five Bolton MRT team vehicles and attending Police Vehicles searched the surrounding roads, and parts of the Trafford Park Industrial area.

In the early hours of the morning the GMP Air Support Unit Helicopter from the NWAOG (Police) arrived on scene, spending almost an hour carrying out extensive searches of the Bridgewater Canal corridor, parts of the adjacent Manchester Ship Canal, the Trafford Centre and Trafford Park, plus around the woman’s home address in Eccles.

By 03.00hrs in the morning, all MRT search area taskings had been completed, and with GMP search efforts and enquiries continuing, the MRT search operation was stood down.

The last Bolton MRT members departed the area at 03.20hrs.

Throughout the day GMP search efforts continued, including the Underwater Search Unit conducting further searches of the Bridgewater Canal, and Police Officers carrying out further searches in the area the woman had last been seen.

The woman was ultimately located many miles away in the Whalley Range area of Manchester, thankfully alive though cold.

The following resources were deployed on this search incident;

  • Bolton Mountain Rescue Team ; 28x team Call Out list members present on scene, plus our Search and Rescue Boat, five team Vehicles and our Control Trailer.
  • Rossendale and Pendle Mountain Rescue Team; 9x Call Out list members, two team vehicles. (Inclusive of RPMRT / SARDA England
  • Search Dog Team, Handler Steve Garafalo and his Search Dog Finn)
  • North West Air Operations Group (Police) / Greater Manchester Police Air Support Unit Helicopter ‘ India 99.’
  • Greater Manchester Police; 1x Missing Person Search Manager, a large number of Divisional Officers.