Search Team Rescues Missing Township Man

January 24, 1995 (~estimated)

Search Team Rescues Missing Township Man

An 80-year-old Township man who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease wandered away from his Fairway Drive residence on Thursday night, and became the object of an 80-person search and rescue mission overseen by Township police and an outside search and rescue organization.

A nine-person search party, made up of members of the three Princeton fire companies and the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad, found the missing man, Arthur Collins, in the northwest corner of the Ettl Farm property at 10:20 p.m. He was face-down in mud, but still conscious.

He was transported to the Medical Center at Princeton by the Princeton First Aid Squad, and was treated for hypothermia. He was released from the hospital over the weekend and is recovering at home.

Mr. Collins’ wife reported him missing at approximately 5 p.m., said Lieutenant Mario Musso of the Township Police Department. She had noticed his absence at 4:15 p. m. but searched the area around their home by herself before telephoning the police.

According to Lieutenant Musso, officers conducted a thorough search of the Collins’ home and property, but were unable to locate the missing man.

Mr. Collins walks two-to-three miles every day with a companion, and is in good physical condition, said Lieutenant Musso.

An Exhaustive Search

When it became apparent that a more exhaustive search would be necessary, police contacted the Pali-sades Search and Rescue Dog Association, a group based in Millburn, N.J. that speCializes in such operations.

Tom Pampalone, of Palisades Search and Rescue, organized and deployed the searchers. “We set up a command post at the Johnson Park School,” said Mr. Pampalone, “and then I helped in the planning of the operation.

“We sent air-scenting canines into the high-probability areas around his house,” he said. Air-scenting dogs, which are distinct from bloodhounds, search an area for the scent of any human, not just a specific person.

The search was concentrated, at first. in the area between Fairway Drive and the Johnson Park School. Police conducted a door-to-door search of the neighborhood, looking for anyone who might have seen. Mr. Collins, and also checked the wooded area along Rosdale Road.

Once it was determined that Mr. Collins was not nearby, said Mr. Pampalone, the search expanded. The Township Police provided maps for the searchers, and the part of the Township around the house was divided into sections. Mr. Pampalone assigned the rescue teams to search different areas, and began deploying them at approximately 8:30 p. m.

Borough Council member Mark Freda was part of the search team that discovered Mr. Collins at approximately 10:20. He reports that the team was spread out in a line and was moving across the Ettl Farm property when they found the missing man.

“I happened to see something move, and it was his hand,” said Mr. Freda. “He was about 30 feet away from me. He was covered with mud, and it appeared that he had tried to get up more than once. We got the team together and got him out.”

The team then radioed for assistance, said Mr. Freda, and Township patrol cars and…

an ambulance arrived on the scene “almost immediately,” and transported Mr. Collins to the hospital.

Personnel from numerous local agencies participated in the operation: there were 30 volunteers from the Princeton Fire Department, and 15 from the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad; 16 Township police officers were involved, as was a K-9 unit from the South Brunswick Police Department.

The Lawrence Fire Department provided 10 searchers, and five came from the Kingston Fire Department.

In addition to the search dog teams provided by the Palisades group, a blood-hound and its handler came from the West Jersey Search and Rescue Association.

The Princeton First Aid Squad Ladies’ Auxiliary provided support for the searchers.

Common Occurrence

According to Mr, Pampalone, the six-member Palisades Search and Rescue Dog Association is called out two or three times per month, often to search for lost Alzheimer’s patients.

“Approximately 60 percent of our call-outs are for water drownings,” he estimated, “the balance is made up of Alzheimer’s patients and lost children.”

Mr. Pampalone’s organization uses several different breeds of dog for their work. On Thursday, Palisades brought three dogs: a Border Collie, a French Beauceron, and a Rottweiler.

“The dogs are certified in several areas,” said Mr. Pampalorie, “including wilderness search, water search, and disaster rescue.”

—Rob Garver

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