15:39 PM

South Dakota Wing Helps Search for Runaway Mustang

Together again

SDWG-Patch-1200px-300dpiThe South Dakota Wing participated in the effort to find a Mustang horse that broke free from a wilderness camp May 2 in Wind Cave National Park, searching from aircraft and  photography drones as well as on the ground.

“The incident was an unusual situation but one that was similar to a missing person search,” said Craig Goodrich, Civil Air Patrol incident commander and wing vice commander. “This mission was a good opportunity to practice searching for a missing person. 

“It also allowed (the wing) to work closely with the National Park Service and other agencies, which will enhance our ability to work together if we need to look for a missing person at Wind Cave or in the southern Black Hills." 

The wing was already in training mode for May under U.S. Air Force auspices when the request for assistance came.

“Civil Air Patrol does not usually search for missing livestock,” said Col. Michael Marek, wing commander. “But we already had training funds scheduled for use this month. We can always use more practice at visual searching in terrain like Wind Cave National Park.”  

The fact the South Dakota Wing was searching for an actual target instead of participating in a simulation made it an ideal opportunity for members to train and provide a public service at the same time, Marek said.

The horse’s owner, Gin Szagola, was riding across the U.S. and was camping in the park with permission. The horse, named Finley, got away in the middle of the night, pulling a long picket rope behind. The National Park Service, Custer County Search and Rescue, other agencies, and volunteers began searching for Finley last week.

Passersby spotted Finley in apparently healthy condition the morning of May 9 along U.S. 385 in the park, about 2 miles from where the horse went missing a week earlier.

Szagola, who expressed appreciation for the South Dakota Wing’s efforts, said she intends to resume her cross-country ride, possibly after Finley has time to recuperate within a couple of weeks, based on veterinarian guidance.