Make The Call: Search & Rescue Should Always Be Free
Monday night a man went missing up above Oak Grove Campground.
Apparently the man went missing after hiking from his campground and getting lost up on the mountain. His wife said he was an experienced hiker, but most likely got disoriented on the south face of Pine Mountain.
While Washington County's Search and Rescue Teams were able to safely get the man off the mountain, with a lot of help from the Star7 Public Safety helicopter, it was discovered the man delayed calling for help because he was afraid the rescue operation would cost him a lot of money.
"He was so worried about having to pay, he didn't want to call for help," SAR director Darrell Cashin said. "It's also, in the past, made people want to wait longer to ask for help. We can have long discussions on why they're in that position and how they got there, but at the end of the day, we don't care how they got there. Our job is to rescue them and that's what we do. And it's a public service. It doesn't cost you a thing."
Cashin compared it to a traffic accident. Imagine, he said, if a police officer responded to a traffic accident, but told you he wouldn't help until you paid him up front.
"It's a public service, just like that," Cashin said. "Plus, every member of Search and Rescue just want to help people. They care about you."
Of course, advanced medical care and LifeFlight are not free, but any rescue operation is a service of the Washington County Sheriff's Office and is paid for by tax dollars.
As for the Oak Grove/Pine Mountain rescue Monday night, the man was taken by helicopter off of the mountain and was not charged for the rescue. Having a starting point and an Apple Watch GPS aided in the operation and Cashin said the reward to his team of 90-plus volunteers in any SAR event was seeing the system work.
"No one wants to have to tell a mom her 12-year old son didn't make it or a spouse his or her partner is dead," he said. "But the opposite is true as well. There is no better feeling than getting a hug or a thank you from someone stranded or a family member of a missing person that has been found. It's the greatest feeling in the world."