This article is a report from the field of a lost/missing child search and rescue exercise that took place early Friday morning at Lake Tawakoni State Park. Names enclosed by parenthesis are fictitious.
Even though the following account is a report of a search and rescue exercise, it could be every parent’s worst nightmare. The “Williams” Family from a community near Ft. Worth pulled up to the entranceway of Lake Tawakoni State Park on Farm Road 2475 early Friday morning, selected their campsite, paid the fees for the weekend and pulled the luxurious RV to the pad. The family parked the trailer and hooked up the water and electricity to their “home away from home”.
It was then that the family noticed little four-year old “Kerry” missing. The parents called his name and ask other campers on the White Deer Loop trail if they had seen the child. “Williams” then went back to the entrance station and notified the park personnel.
The alarm went out and the Hunt County Sherriff’s office was notified. Deputy Mott was one of the first to the scene arriving about twenty minutes after the call from Duck Cove. Other units responded including Sergeant Jeff Haines. The initial effort was to check every vehicle leaving the park for the missing child. Momma “Williams” pulled out her cell phone and found a picture of “Kerry”. It was emailed to the ranger’s office and the image was printed for the first responders. The initial search turned up nothing so the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) was notified.
Lieutenant Stapleton, Royse City Police Chief and East Texas CERT coordinator, was notified and the team was activated. The first members started to arrive within forty-five minutes of the call. Members were given maps and pictures of the missing boy. Many team members are active amateur radio operators and had transceivers affixed to their belts to aid in communication at a location where cell towers are sparse. A command post was set up at the entrance to the park. The members were split into four or five-person teams and assigned a portion of the 376-acre park to search. In addition to the wilderness trails there are over five miles of shoreline.
The five teams were given a specific area to search. Every unusual item was noted and flags were pushed into the ground. One team member found a dead clam near a picnic table and wondered if it was something that a youngster might pick up. It was then that a small footprint was found. Lightening cracked, thunder rumbled and the rain started to fall. A light jacket was discovered in the woods alongside the trail. The prints were marked and noted at the command post. Team Two eventually found “Kerry” unharmed napping under a bush near the shoreline off White Deer Trail. This time the ending was happy but there have been times when the search team is activated only to discover that a child has been abducted by an unknown person and the results are sometimes quite different.
The Lake Tawakoni State Park is open seven days per week. The gates open at 7 AM and the daily use fee is just $5 per person.