15:13 PM

Cell Phone Team Info Leads to Rescue of 5 in Nevada

Capt. Margot Myers
Public Affairs Officer
Arizona Wing

Information from the Civil Air Patrol National Cell Phone Forensics Team helped the Lander County Sheriff’s Office rescue five missing individuals in sub-freezing temperatures in north central Nevada in early Dec. 10.

Three adults and two children, 5 and 6, had set off Dec. 9 for a day trip in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Mechanical issue with the vehicle left them stranded, and they called the sheriff’s office to say they were lost and were going in search of firewood.

The sheriff's office search and rescue team was alerted at 6:45 p.m. local time and headed into the field 45 minutes later. After several hours they had not found the missing people.

A volunteer on the ground team had heard about the CAP cell phone team during a training class a couple of years earlier, though the county had never before requested help from the CAP team.

The sheriff’s office requested assistance through the Nevada Division of Emergency Management about 1:30 a.m., and the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center alerted the cell phone team's Maj. Justin Ogden at 2 a.m.

By 3:30 a.m. Ogden provided  information on the most likely area to search, and the ground team found the family just 30 minutes later.

The family had stayed with its disabled vehicle and managed to light a fire as temperatures dropped to the lower 20s. A fire normally is a good signal for ground teams, but one of the team's volunteers said that they would not have been able to see the fire from any of the areas they would have driven or hiked during their search.

The ground team had already searched in the general area where the family was eventually found, but the cell phone data analysis sent them back to that location. A combination of the ground team’s use of Virtual Search Planning techniques and Ogden's information led to the family’s rescue. The ground team reported that the five people were cold and scared but “unscathed.”