Search and rescue crews find lost man

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A 36-year-old Republic man who became disoriented and lost in the Mark Twain National Forest near Shell Knob was located by search and rescue volunteers on Friday afternoon.

"It was a great effort by all of the volunteers who dropped what they were doing and volunteered time that they didn't get paid for to assist in finding this man," said Mick Epperly, Barry County sheriff.

On Sept. 4, Chris Davis, of Republic, went camping alone in the local portion of the national forest. On Wednesday, Davis called his wife, Audrey, and asked for assistance because he could not locate his campsite.

Audrey drove to the area where she dropped Davis off the day before and honked the car horn for several hours before seeking assistance from the Barry County Sheriff's Department.

"She contacted the sheriff's office around 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday and I started organizing search efforts immediately," said Epperly. "I took the initial report and asked for medical history and possible whereabouts."

The Barry County Sheriff's Department and Barry County Search and Rescue began searching the area where Davis was believed to be on Wednesday evening.

When Davis was not located within a few hours, Epperly contacted the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the U.S. Forest Service and the Missouri Department of Conservation to aid in the search. Law enforcement, emergency personnel and volunteers continued the search using horses and all-terrain vehicles.

"There were concerns with the weather, and we had to delay the search due to lightning and the tornado warning that we had on Thursday morning," said Epperly.

At around 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 7, Davis was located by Peewee and Terry Wilson, volunteers who were searching the forest on mules.

"He was in pretty fair condition," said Epperly. "He was weak and disoriented and very glad that someone had found him."

Epperly contacted the Missouri State Water Patrol and Davis was transported to Campers Point in Shell Knob. From there, Davis was taken by ambulance to Cox Monett Hospital where he was treated and released.

Throughout the search efforts, the Barry County Sheriff's Department was also assisted by the Stone County Sheriff's Department, Barry County Mounted Search and Rescue, K-9 Charka and numerous volunteers and family members.

"I am proud of the search and rescue team," said Epperly. "They are funded entirely by donations and don't get paid for their efforts or training.

"I was also very pleased with the people that donated items to help us out," said Epperly. "We have always had a lot of support in these situations, and it shows great character."

Local businesses donated food and drinks to assist individuals who worked extended hours searching for Davis. Donations were received from Mike Carr and Fastrip, Lazy B Cafe, McDonald's of Cassville and the Red Cross of Joplin.

"Without the assistance from the volunteers and the donations of items, it would have been very hard for everyone involved," said Epperly.

People visiting the forest must be prepared for extreme weather conditions and carry plenty of food and water during camping and hiking trips.

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