An elderly man who went missing from hospital in Chesterfield on a freezing December night was rescued by officers, after a last-minute decision to widen their search area using a police drone.
The man, in his eighties, was being treated for an infection in Chesterfield Royal Hospital, in Calow when he left the hospital in a confused state at around 11.10pm on 1 December.
That night the temperature had dropped to 2 degrees Celsius with a wind chill of -2, and the man was not dressed for the conditions, wearing only thin padded jacket, jumper, and trousers.
Police were called by the hospital at 11.30pm to say he had absconded, and they believed he had been gone around 20 minutes.
An extensive police search ensued in the coming hours, with the man making a call to a relative to say he was at a bus stop in Brimington — miles away from the hospital. Officers combed that area and employed a drone to help find him, but all efforts failed to locate him.
After almost six hours and due to the large search area involved, a request was put into the National Police Air Service (NPAS) to support. The aim was for the NPAS helicopter to search the area north of the hospital, as all intelligence suggested the man was somewhere in this area.
Whilst this was being arranged, Sergeant Kev Harrell, acting on a hunch, made the decision to use the last remaining battery to fly the drone to the south of the hospital, just in case. The footage from that drone search is shown alongside this post.
“My heart skipped a beat when I located a heat source in a field — a heat source of a person — in a ditch behind some houses”, recounts Sgt Harrell.
“I guided local officers in with the aid of the floodlight on the drone and it was great news.
“The heat source was the missing man we had been looking for.
“He was found, freezing cold and clearly unwell at 5.30am on 2 December, approximately six hours after he had walked out of the hospital.
“Medical staff later confirmed that if he had not been found at that time, he would have likely died from hypothermia.
“It was a great effort from all involved and just goes to show the importance of having a drone readily available for deployment, and the fact that it saves lives.”
The man’s relatives, were incredibly relieved and thankful to officers for their efforts, with his daughter noting that:
“That night, officers did a brilliant job, working tirelessly to find my dad and ensure that he was safe.
“People need to know about this, as without the police and their ability to access a drone the outcome could have been so different.
“Offering my gratitude and sharing this story is the least I can do after you have saved his life, thank you so much.”
The man has now made a full recovery from his illness and is back at home.