Alzheimer#8217;s patient found unharmed

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 27, 2006

AHOSKIE – The search teams stood ready….fortunately, they were not needed.

A 57-year-old Alzheimer’s patient who had wandered away from her Ahoskie home late Friday afternoon was found unharmed less than three hours later.

At the time of her discovery, she was less than two blocks from her residence.

“Of course we didn’t know that at the time we were preparing to launch an all-out search,” Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh said. “Based on the information we had concerning her health and the late hour of the afternoon, we decided to call in every resource available to us and begin to fan out and search for this woman.”

Chief Fitzhugh said the ordeal began shortly past 5:30 p.m. It was at that time where a report was received concerning an alleged domestic situation in the 900 block of Liberty Street.

“(Ahoskie Police) Officer Chris Copeland responded to that call,” Fitzhugh said. “He was unable to locate the victim of the domestic assault, but was able to learn that the victim was an Alzheimer’s patient who had left her residence. It was at that time where Officer Copeland began to compile information on the woman’s description to aid in the search.”

The Chief added that a short time later (5:46 p.m.), a woman matching the description had stopped at a nearby residence and asked for a drink of water.

“We were told that after she received the water, she hurriedly drank it and ran away,” Fitzhugh said. “We were hoping that she would return to her residence. When about 20 minutes went by and she had not yet returned, a decision was made to organize an all-out search.”

APD Officer Larry Belangia and Ahoskie Fire Department member Barry Blowe set-up an incident command post near the woman’s residence. From there, Blowe would dispatch the search teams using a grid map.

Meanwhile, a North Carolina Highway Patrol helicopter was summoned from Raleigh to aid with an aerial search. Tracking dogs from Odom Correctional Institution near Jackson and the Gates County Sheriff’s Office K-9 unit were also en route.

At the scene, a small army of searchers stood ready for their command. They included APD officers, Ahoskie town and rural firemen, Hertford County EMS, Ahoskie Rescue Squad members, Gates County Rescue Squad members, NC Highway Patrol troopers, Hertford County Sheriff’s deputies and private citizens.

One fireman was asked how long he thought the search would last, to which he replied, “we’ll be here as long as it takes.”

Fortunately, the missing woman was found before the all-out search began. At 8:13 p.m., she was found in a wooded area between two homes on Ruth Avenue.

The woman was taken to Roanoke-Chowan Hospital from where she was released a short time later.

As far as the domestic assault was concerned, Fitzhugh said it appeared to him that wasn’t an issue in this case.

What the Chief did learn was that Ahoskie and surrounding communities stand ready to help in a time of need.

“It was overwhelming the number of people that volunteered to help us search for this woman,” he noted. “That shows me the compassion we have for our fellow men and women here in our area. I just want to thank everyone involved. Without this type of support, this search, if it had materialized, would have taken a lot longer.”