South Boston News & Record
and Mecklenburg Sun
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Missing 91-year-old found alive in the woods
SoVaNow.com / June 03, 2013A missing 91-year-old who had been the focus of a three-day search in the Birch-Elmo community of Halifax County was found alive Friday shortly after noon, dehydrated and lying flat on the ground but otherwise in fair condition.
Rescuers discovered John Thomas Foster in thick woods, some 250 yards off the road about a quarter-mile from the intersection of Birch Elmo Road and New Zion Church Road, said Halifax County Sheriff Fred S. Clark. He was taken to Halifax Regional Hospital around 12:30 for medical care following his ordeal.
“He appeared to be in fair condition,” Clark said Friday afternoon. “He suffered numerous insect bites and was severely dehydrated.”
Foster, whose disappearance was first reported Wednesday by a caregiver who checks on his regularly, is believed to have spent some 40 hours in the woods near his Birch Elmo Road residence, about two miles from Birchland Park. The elderly resident has no family in the immediate area and lives alone, said Sheriff Clark.
The search for Foster lasted some 26 hours and involved law enforcement officers, volunteer firefighters and 20 volunteer search and rescue teams from across the state.
According to Clark, Foster was found just minutes after Terry Adams of the Charlottesville Search and Rescue team spotted on the ground an article of clothing and a pair of glasses the elderly man had been wearing.
Nicole Cheatle of Culpeper Search and Rescue Team and her air scent search K-9, Finn, spotted the elderly man lying on the ground just yards away from where Adams found the shirt and glasses. He was dressed in his t-shirt.
At 2 p.m. Thursday, the Sheriff’s Department and Virginia State Police issued a statewide Senior Alert on Foster’s disappearance. The alert noted that Foster suffered from cognitive impairment “and the disappearance poses a credible threat to his health and safety.”
Authorities with the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office, Virginia State Police, Halifax County Search and Rescue, Halifax County Emergency Services, Halifax County Rescue Squad, Pittsylvania County Emergency Management Mobile Command Team, Angel Search and Rescue, Commonwealth Search and Rescue, Campbell County Search and Rescue, Piedmont Search and Rescue assisted in the three-day search.
Foster was reported missing by a caretaker who checks on him regularly, the sheriff explained. The last time a caretaker spoke with Foster was on Wednesday around 3 p.m. when she saw him walking along Birch-Elmo Road, about two miles from Birchland Park.
While Virginia State Police helicopters searched from the air, numerous volunteers assisted search and rescue team members in the ground search for Foster Wednesday evening into Thursday and again on Friday.
After Foster was located around noon Friday, a relieved Sheriff Clark extended praise to everyone who participated in the search.
“Twenty different volunteer search and rescue teams came here from across the state to help us find Mr. Foster, and we are so grateful for their time and effort which paid off when he was found alive,” Clark said.
The sheriff extended “a huge thank you” to Kirby Saunders and Chad Loftis of Halifax County Emergency Services, and First Sgt. Jeff Lane of the Virginia State Police who assisted the Sheriff’s Office and organized the search.
Sheriff Clark also thanked Wendy Jones, Becky Martin, and other volunteers and citizens for bringing supplies for all of the personnel involved in the search.
“Thank God we were able to find him, and that he in stable condition,” said Clark.
“Everyone worked together, and with the help of all these volunteers the search ended positively."
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