Smartphone app used to help find missing man

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RESCUERS found a lost walker on New Year’s Eve using a specialised tracking smartphone app.

Three rescue teams were mobilised to search for the middle-aged man lost in Glentress Forest, near Peebles, on Monday afternoon.

Lothian and Borders police called in Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue Team (TVMRT) at 3.30pm after the man, who was on holiday, had dialled 999.

The team’s Dave Wright said: “Although the police were in mobile phone contact with the missing person, he was unable to describe exactly where he was in the forest which covers an area of approximately 29km².

“Given the time of day, cold weather conditions and potential for the missing person to become a victim of hypothermia, we mobilised immediately. Team members split into small groups and carried out hasty searches of paths and tracks through the forest to no avail.

He continued: “At the same time as the initial searches of tracks and paths were under way, the team attempted to make use of a specialist Search and Rescue system called SARLOC.

“SARLOC has been specifically developed to help locate missing persons. The system works when a web link is sent by text to the missing person’s internet enabled mobile phone. Once the link is accessed by the missing person, the application utilises the phone’s GPS to send the position to a secure website which is then accessed by the mountain rescue team.”

And because of intermittent mobile phone reception in the forest and the period of time the man had been missing, the team called on neighbouring teams to help the 15 TVMRT members and one search and rescue dog already on the scene.

They were joined by eight members of the Borders Search and Rescue Unit and 13 from Moffat Mountain Rescue Team.

Search and Rescue Dog Association (SARDA) Scotland and SARDA Southern Scotland provided an additional three dogs and handlers to assist in the search and Strathclyde Police sent in their helicopter.

But Mr Wright said: “As the additional resources were travelling to the search area, the SARLOC system yielded a grid reference which allowed team members to locate the missing man at around 8.30pm.

“The missing man, who is in his early 50s, was mildly hypothermic after spending several hours outdoors. He was checked over by the Scottish Ambulance Service, who allowed him to return to the local hotel where he was staying.”

Among the searchers was a Cockermouth mountain rescue team member who was staying with a TVMRT member over New Year.

SARLOC was developed by Russ Hore from the Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Team and its accuracy is reported to be within 100m.

z Meanwhile, Border Search and Rescue Unit (BSARU) raised over £1,378 packing bags on December 22 in Sainsbury’s in Kelso.

BSARU’s Damon Rodwell said: “BSARU has been adopted as the store’s Charity of the Year in recognition of our decades of voluntary life-saving service in the area, and the chance to hold a fund-raiser on one of the busiest shopping days of the year was a very generous gift.”

He described the total raised as “very gratifying”, adding: “Fund raising is a continual requirement for the team, which runs a fleet of three highly-specialised 4WD vehicles and has annual operating costs in the region of £25,000.