MOUNT VERNON — Over 300 volunteer searchers, organized by Knox County Emergency Management and the American Red Cross of Knox County, gathered Thursday morning at the movie theater parking lot on Upper Gilchrist Road to be organized into teams to help in the search for missing Tina Herrmann, Stephanie Sprang and Kody Maynard.
Get audio from the press conferences, see images of the investigation and search, a map of key events and related stories.
At the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, around 80 canine officers with their dogs were briefed and deployed by Deputy EMA Director Matt Sturgeon.
According to Knox County EMA Director Brian Hess, the 300 volunteer searchers were organized into teams. Each team was assigned a leader — many of whom were volunteer firefighters and off-duty police officers — as well as a medic who would be available to handle any injuries the searchers may endure.
Warning about the rough terrain, the near freezing temperatures, and the rain, and cautioning the need for safety, Doug McLarnan, retired volunteer firefighter and operations manager for the Knox County Park District, told the searchers to keep themselves safe, go slowly and be very watchful.
“This is what makes Knox County unique is that we have so many people willing to come out when the weather’s like this, when there’s a life-safety issue,” Hess told the crowd.
The group was made up of civilians, police officers, firefighters and EMT’s, and search and rescue experts such as the mounted search team who also do foot searches all over the state, such as Thursday’s.
Many of the searchers hoped if the three were not found alive, at least the conclusion to the search may bring some comfort to the families of the missing.
“I came to help out,” Central Ohio Technical College student and Mount Vernon resident Charles Christopher said. “This is so sad for somebody to do that to other people. Hopefully, we can do something to help.”
While many in the group were civilians with little or no search and rescue experience, some search teams with extensive backgrounds in search and rescue were among the volunteers.
“We were asked to come,” Central Ohio Mounted Search Unit coordinator Cathy Gough, said standing with some of the 12 members of her team who answered the call for assistance today.
“This is what our unit does. We want to help. We want to do this, Gough said.
Volunteers from several counties were among the group awaiting their final assignments from Hess and their search team leaders.
Volunteers in the community gathered snacks and coffee donated by Tim Horton’s and Sips, as well as homemade chicken sandwiches made by the volunteers.
Kristin Leech and Brittany Peck of Mount Vernon said they just wanted to do what they could to fortify those searching over miles of woods and fields.”
“We came to help out all these searchers that are freezing,” she said referring to the cold rain and frigid temperatures. “Many of them came out to help someone they didn’t even know.”
Some of the volunteers who have helped over the past week with the searches attended Thursday evening’s press conference, to hear details regarding the resolution of the missing persons case.
As they listened, some became emotional.
One, a man who searched Wednesday and Thursday, declined to give his name, but choked back tears talking about the sad ending to the search.
“We just didn’t want it to end this way,” he said fighting tears.