December 12, 2015
As your Sheriff, I would like to personally offer my sincerest appreciation to our community members that took action and helped locate a missing eight year old boy today. It’s moments like these that remind us all how fortunate we are to live in a small community filled with people that care about their neighbors.
Late afternoon today, the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a missing boy from the area of Fred Haight Drive and North Street in Smith River. I was able to respond with Deputy Oilar and even though there was a small language barrier, we were able to develop indicators that the young boy ran away from home. The combination of his age, current weather condition, nearby highway and quickly approaching darkness made this incident very concerning.
We utilized a translator from within our staff, Del Norte Search and Rescue was activated and an incident command post was established. Several Search and Rescue members arrived on scene within minutes. We began searching the area systematically and actually located surveillance that provided us with a possible direction of travel. I attempted to put the information out on social media but my cell service was inoperable. Our communications center was also suddenly inundated with multiple emergency and non-emergency calls but information regarding the missing boy was relayed to all local agencies over the main radio channel.
That radio traffic was posted on The Del Norte and Curry County Scanner Feed (privately operated page on Facebook). The news spread quickly as people shared the information and commented.
While searching the area, we received tips from residents that the missing boy may have been seen at a local market and a US Postal Courier advised us she saw him buying snacks at the nearby casino. As we directed units north, dispatch advised us a woman reported having him in her sight near the casino. Search and Rescue responded in less than a minute to confirm the child was in fact the missing boy and found two women keeping him close by. I was also on scene just behind Search and Rescue. I noticed the young boy was soaked, cold and crying.
He was returned to his parents immediately via a ride in a Search and Rescue vehicle just as the weather worsened, darkness arrived and visibility on the highway became dangerously low.
I think he learned a valuable lesson today and I was once again reminded just how special our Del Norte Community really is. I feel incredibly fortunate to have great deputies, outstanding dispatchers, a top notch Search and Rescue team, great support on social media and community members that understand public safety is a shared responsibility by all residents.
Our county is truly at its best when we work together. Thank you to each and every one of you that contributed to the safe return of a young boy to his family.
Sheriff Erik Apperson