Local Police Departments Team Up, Use Drone to Find Missing Blind Man

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On Saturday, February 15, it was a race against the clock for Enfield's Police Department as they searched the woods to find a legally blind man.

Police say 62-year-old Richard Doty disappeared and hadn't been seen in more than 24 hours in a wooded area near his Enfield home. Investigators believe the man had been in single-digit temperatures for more than 33 hours.

Enfield's Police Chief Alaric Fox said the department had exhausted a lot of resources to find Doty.

"The search of the area at first was not productive," said Chief Fox. "We utilized our K9 unit and unfortunately was not productive."

Investigators worked with other agencies to try and locate Doty, even calling in the Vernon Police Department.

Sgt. Todd Thiel received the call to help with the search efforts.

"On Saturday morning I received a phone call saying Enfield had a missing person who was blind and they were looking for assistance for a drone," said Thiel.

Thiel is one of Vernon's Police Department's drone pilots and rushed to Doty's home where search efforts were underway.

"I arrived and was debriefed about the situation and I immediately got the drone running," said Thiel. "I was looking for anything that I could see or identify while using both a digital camera and a thermal imaging camera."

The thick woods, even from the air, made it difficult for Thiel to find Doty.

"I was flying about 100-125 feet above the ground and you're kind of looking at these little objects and trying to figure out what you're exactly looking for," he explained.

Thiel continued to search in the air for any heat sources until a heat source began to move in the woods.

"I was pretty sure it was the person we were looking for," said Sergeant Thiel. "I called one of the Enfield police officers and let him know that I believe I found the person."

Doty was located on the ground, carried out of the woods by officers and firefighters and taken to the hospital.

Thiel is now recommending other police departments to make the investment in drones.

"This weekend proved the necessity for this and it's worth penny," said Thiel. "I'm glad we had enough money to spend on the program."

Enfield's Police Department just purchased drones and will begin training officers in the future.

"It's a miracle and we're very gracious and grateful that we were able to find him safe and sound," said Chief Fox. "We look forward to training our officers about the drones and how critical they can be during investigations."

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