When Barry Lannon went missing this summer, the community sprang into action.
Lannon, who suffers from dementia, was reported missing on Aug 12, after he wandered away from his home on Bryce Road in Forest Grove. He was found two days later after an intensive search that included the RCMP, local B.C. conservation officers, South Cariboo Search and Rescue and Lake of the Trees Bible Camp.
“It turned into quite the search. I believe we had upwards of 50 people looking,” said Sam Bergman, the SCSAR ‘junior’ manager in charge of the rescue efforts that week. He said the initial call came in at 10 p.m. to look for a missing elderly man in the Eagle Creek/ Ruth Lake area.
“The Forest Grove Fire Department came out and helped for a few days, the conservation officers and obviously the RCMP were involved. It was quite a very labour intensive search.”
The groups involved in Lannon’s rescue gathered last week at the South Cariboo Search and Rescue hall to commemorate their efforts.
Organized by Const. Bentley Johansson, the evening was intended to honour those who went above and beyond in that search, Bergman said. This included the Lake of the Trees Bible Camp, which donated its boat and an automated external defibrillator (AED) and spineboard.
Lake of the Trees Bible Camp director Tom McIntosh said he first heard of Lannon’s disappearance around midnight on Aug. 13 when searchers woke him up, asking if he had seen the missing man. Over the next few days, McIntosh said he, his family and members of the camp prayed for Lannon and watched as the helicopter searched the area east of them.
When Lannon was located by helicopter two days after he went missing, McIntosh said he got a phone call from the RCMP around 2:30 p.m. asking if the search team could borrow their boat.
“I said ‘absolutely.’ I walked around the corner and there was about seven personnel descending on our grounds,” McIntosh said. “We were just thrilled to be able to immediately offer any aid they needed with the AED, the spine board, the life vests and our ski boat. Within minutes they had organized themselves, come up with a plan and were sailing.”
Bergman said the boat was at the dock, in the water and ready to go, saving them valuable time. “They didn’t give us any grief or nothing. They just said ‘Here you guys go. What do you need?’”
McIntosh watched from the dock with an RCMP officer as the helicopter crew reported they saw Lannon move. The joy that followed this news over the airwaves and the tears in the officer’s eyes beside him really stuck with him, McIntosh said, especially when he was told how many sleepless hours the multiple agencies had spent looking for him.
“Professionalism with a capital P, their hearts were in this, it wasn’t just a job, they were all in. I was overcome,” McIntosh said.
READ MORE: UPDATE: 100 Mile RCMP locates missing person alive and well
While he was happy to receive a commendation for donating the boat, McIntosh views the RCMP officers, search and rescue crew and conservation officers as the ones who truly deserve the praise and recognition. McIntosh considers them as the collective shepherd from the Bible who left the flock to save the one lost sheep and is deeply grateful they did so.
“They’re the heroes of this story,” he said.
Bergman said the Lake of Trees’ donation was so important due to ‘the golden hour’ of search and rescue, which refers to the time between finding an individual and getting them to the hospital. Especially after multiple days, sooner is better than later. Exposure to the elements means every minute counts, he said, especially because they didn’t know if Lannon had suffered broken bones or head injuries.
100 Mile RCMP Staff-Sgt. Svend Nielsen and Sgt. Brad McKinnon presented the awards of recognition to Bergman and the other South Cariboo SAR managers, as well as conservation officer Joel Kline and McIntosh.
McKinnon, who was on duty and participated in the search in August, said the rescue illustrated the value of community partnerships and collaboratively working to solve problems.
“We obviously want to recognize community members and other professional services that are supporting us in our regular duties,” Nielsen said. “We can’t do these events all on our own and it’s really important that we as the RCMP recognize community members and of course SAR for the work they do for us.”
McKinnon said finding Lannon took tireless work and dedication from everyone involved in the search and he was blown away by the level of commitment everyone showed.
“There are no words to describe the emotion and the joy that we all felt when we located him alive. The roof would have lifted off the detachment if it wasn’t secured, it’s something like I’ve never experienced in my life,” McKinnon said.
Lannon’s wife Barb attended the commemoration with the support of her brother Jim Dooks and his wife Jeannine. Barb was emotional and unable to talk with the Free Press, but did express her profound gratitude to all gathered in the hall and informed them her husband is still recovering in Williams Lake from his injuries.
“You all know I love you to no end,” Barb said tearfully after the awards had been given out.
Finding missing loved ones, combined with the camaraderie and family nature of the SCSAR, is why Bergman loves what he does. He encourages everyone to always tell their family or friends where they’re going when hiking or exploring the outdoors so if the worse should happen, he and his team know where to search for them.
“With COVID-19 going on we’re seeing more and more of a big push towards outdoor activities,” Bergman said. “There are lots of people out there hiking. We’re going into the winter months so we expect cross country skiing, snowshoeing and ski hills season passes are selling out.”