The Department of Natural Resources’ Law Enforcement Division recently honored four Department of Natural Resources conservation officers who worked as part of a search and rescue operation and who ultimately found a missing 2-1/2-year-old child in the woods in Newaygo County last year. The officers were honored at last week’s meeting of the Natural Resources Commission in Cadillac, Michigan.
Sgt. Mike Bomay and conservation officers Jeff Ginn, Brian Lebel and Mike Wells were presented with Lifesaving Awards by DNR Director Keith Creagh and DNR Law Enforcement Division Chief Gary Hagler for their role in locating Amber Smith, a toddler who disappeared Oct. 8, 2013, from her Barton Township home.
“Our officers go through extensive training to locate lost persons in the woods and they are experts in the areas where they work, knowing the terrain better than anyone,” said Hagler. “I would like to congratulate all of the officers involved for their diligence on this search. Some had already worked a full shift when they were requested to help and did not hesitate to assist.”
The DNR conservation officers responded to a request from the Newaygo County Sheriff’s Department to assist with the search of the heavily wooded area around the girl’s home. The area is part of national forest land and contains a maze of two-track roads and power lines. The officers searched the area until 1 a.m. and then were relieved by another search team. The conservation officers reported back once the sun came up and continued their search, locating the little girl approximately 24 hours after she was reported missing.
The conservation officers used an off-road vehicle and utility task vehicle in their search. As they searched, the officers retrieved items that were potential evidence and turned them over to an evidence collection team. After a brief meeting at an intersection of two-track roads, the officers separated to continue the search and, shortly after that, while cresting a hill, CO Ginn stopped short, got off his ORV and walked into the woods and returned carrying the toddler, alert and unharmed. CO Wells immediately contacted Incident Command to report the missing girl was found and that she was alive.
To learn more about Michigan conservation officers and the work they do, visit the DNR website www.michigan.gov/conservationofficers