Five minutes to find missing man from the air

Tuesday 28 November 2023

A man, who had been reported missing by his family in Devon, was found by a National Police Air Service helicopter crew just five minutes after they arrived at the search area.

Following a 90-minute ground search for the man, who had been last seen three hours earlier at his home in Dawlish, the helicopter based at NPAS Exeter was deployed, shortly after 2pm on Thursday 23 November 2023.  The missing man’s whereabouts were completely unknown when Devon & Cornwall Police requested the help of the NPAS crew for a coastal search of the Dawlish area.

The crew was emailed a photo of the missing man and set off, starting the search at Dawlish Warren.

Five minutes after arriving on the scene, the crew identified a man sitting alone on top of Langstone Rock.  Using their powerful daylight camera, they were able to zoom in on his face and confirm, from 1,000 feet above, it was the missing man.

The crew monitored the man from 2,000 feet until officers arrived and took him to safety.

Tactical Flight Officer Mark Gamson said: “This is a clear example of where a police helicopter and its crew, when deployed early into a search, can find a missing person quickly, bringing the incident to a safe and successful conclusion. The helicopter is invaluable in covering miles of search area quickly, saving hours on the ground and, more importantly, ensuring people get the help they need as quickly as possible.”