Early on Wednesday morning, March 3, Taos Search and Rescue responded to a mission near US Highway 64 and Colorado Road, just east of Tres Piedras.
The subject was understood to be a 72-year-old female, possibly with dementia, who was believed to have left her cabin early around midday on March 1 and had not returned. Temperatures overnight were sub-freezing and the subject was reported to have been carrying a shovel and wearing sweatpants and a sweater.
Four members of TSAR joined New Mexico State Police and Incident Commander Bob Rodgers at the scene. Other teams that responded include Mountain Canine Corps, Los Alamos Auxiliary Fire Brigade and Pajarito Canine. Helicopter Able 7 was also on site, providing a vantage point on a suspected set of tracks.
“We were organized as one team (Team 1) and were told to go to where the helicopter was hovering,” reports TSAR member Jerry Stachura. “We split into two teams, Sierra and I in one to follow the tracks south and Nate and Laeljon in the other to follow the tracks north.”
TSAR members Nate Berkopec and Laeljon Knowles began tracing tracks that matched the shoe size of the subject and were accompanied by prints made by a shovel.
“The location of these tracks became a ‘hotspot’ search area, and soon the helicopter spotted the subject very close to the area we were in,” recalls TSAR member Sierra Hardy.
The subject was located under a tree by Able 7 and ground searchers were directed to the location.
“It was very helpful that Nate had prior experience searching for subjects with dementia,” Hardy adds. “Before we even started searching, he told us that people with dementia will walk aimlessly/in circles, and if they encounter a ‘barrier’ like a fence or even a road, they will stop. Sure enough, the subject was found by a fence that followed a road.”
TSAR members signed out of the mission and returned to base at 11:30 a.m.