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Drone flown by member of Hamilton County Emergency Management finds missing teen

By Dallas Payeton

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    CHEROKEE COUNTY, North Carolina (WRCB) — A drone flown by a member of Hamilton County Emergency Management Services helped find a missing teen in Cherokee County, North Carolina.

The Wolf Creek Fire Department Chief said the teen is new to the area and got lost while checking out the Camp Creek area of Hiwassee Dam.

On Monday afternoon, Hiwassee Dam and Wolf Creek Fire Departments were notified of a missing teen.

Wolf Creek Fire Chief Eric Curtis said the two crews and a number of others set up shop at a command post near the scene and started their search.

“We were trying to search the harder to get to areas before dark because there were a lot of dangerous waterfalls and stuff. We were wanting to search around those water falls before it got dark. The ground crews cleared all those places. We cleared a lot of vacant homes, summer vacation homes we cleared all those,” Curtis said.

Curtis said he then made the decision to have West Polk Fire and Rescue come up and fly their drones to cover more ground.

To put more eyes in the sky, Patrick Kellam and another drone pilot with Hamilton County Emergency Management Services drove up to North Carolina to assist.

After flying around a heavily wooded are for nearly two hours, Kellam said they came up with nothing, but decided to give it one more try.

“For the last flight of the night I was looking at the weather and we had about 30 minutes before we got some serious rain. I flew out and was able to spot a thermal signature and as we approached the thermal signature it seemed like it was in the shape of a human being,” Kellam said.

What Kellam spotted turned out to be the missing teen.

Ground crews were then directed to where the teen was found and helped bring him to safety.

“It certainly makes what would take hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of personnel, and man power, it makes that a lot easier. It gives us the ability to access areas that are not accessible by foot in very difficult terrains and far way off road ways and things like that. The thermal imaging is just incredible, it makes looking for a needle in a haystack a lot more possible than it ever has been,” Kellam said.

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