NC boy rescued with drones from Hamilton, West Polk Counties

Hiwassee Dam Fire Chief says technology left him "impressed," staved off large manhunt

CHEROKEE COUNTY, N. Carolina (WDEF) — The Hiwassee Dam Fire Department in Murphy, North Carolina, rescued a juvenile with special needs earlier this week after he had gone missing in the nearby mountains.

However, it’s the way the youth was saved that still has the department excited.

On Monday, a juvenile reportedly with special needs in Cherokee County wandered away from his home into the surrounding woods.

Hiwassee Dam Fire Chief Chad McNabb told me that thanks to locally provided drone technology, manpower was significantly reduced and the youth was returned home.

McNabb says that thanks to the Tri-State Mutual Aid Association, a North Carolina juvenile was reunited with his family.

But the chief says he and many others were blown away by drones provided by personnel from Hamilton County EMS and West Polk County.

“Five years ago, we would have never dreamed this was possible,” McNabb said. “I knew the technology existed, I’d never been exposed to it to this extent. But now that I’ve seen it — highly impressed. I think everyone on the scene was impressed with it as well.”

The fire chief says three drones were utilized to fly over grid patterns and detect heat signatures to find the missing youth.

The department says once his heat signature was detected by a Hamilton County drone, GPS coordinates were marked and rescue personnel took care of the rest.

“We would have basically filled the woods full of folks doing grid searches and just hoped someone stumbled up on him,” McNabb said.

Hamilton County Mayor Weston Wamp also took to social media, expressing his pride in his county’s drone team.

McNabb is grateful for all first responders who assisted in finding the boy, but emphasized that thanks to the new technology, manpower to find him was significantly, yet efficiently, reduced.

“Because there was not a true point last seen, so no one knew exactly which direction the juvenile had gone, we were looking at probably five square miles of rugged terrain,” McNabb said. “To try to coordinate with a grid search would have taken hundreds of people.”

McNabb told me that thanks to the drones provided, finding the boy’s heat signature only took two hours to accomplish.

The chief says a lot of hugs were given and received when the youth and his family were reunited, saying everyone seemed very “pleased and happy” upon his return.

Categories: Cherokee County, Featured, Local News