Published 7:41 pm Monday, April 14, 2014
AHOSKIE – An elderly man who went missing late Sunday afternoon was found unharmed by mid-afternoon Monday following a massive ground and air search near the St. John community.
Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan reported that 77-year-old Dr. Aubrey Morgan of Suffolk, VA was found deep in large tract of woods he owns off NC 561 West. North Carolina PERT (Prison Emergency Response Team), a highly skilled unit trained in searching for escaped inmates, located Morgan around 2:30 p.m.
“They (PERT) called back to the command center we had set up to report finding Dr. Morgan,” said a much relieved Vaughan who was out all Sunday night with local emergency responders involved in the search. “He was alert and talking with the PERT members.
“This is great news to share,” Vaughan continued. “We feared the worst in this case, but we never gave up the search. This man was someone’s father, grandfather, or brother….it made no difference to us whether we knew him or not; we were going to give it everything we had to hopefully find him alive and that’s exactly how this turned out.”
Vaughan praised the efforts of roughly 100 individuals that took part in the search.
“Great teamwork,” said the Sheriff. “It’s situations such as this one that all the hours of training come into play. Everyone came together – law enforcement, Hertford and Gates County Emergency Management, the NC Forest Service, EMS, the volunteer fire departments here in our county, tracking dogs from over at Caledonia Prison, the State Highway Patrol helicopter searching Sunday, well into the night, and came back today, and then NC PERT comes in with about 50 members. They were all well skilled and the entire search was well organized.”
Vaughan also thanked the American Red Cross for sending a “lunch wagon” to the command center to feed the hungry horde of searchers, many of whom spent the night in the woods.
He added that friends of Dr. Morgan accompanying him on the weekend trip to Hertford County also aided in the search.
According to Hertford County Emergency Management Director Chris Smith, Morgan set out on his ATV around 4 p.m. on Sunday. When he failed to return to his cabin, his friends contacted the local authorities.
“We started searching around 8 p.m. Sunday and have been here ever since,” Smith told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald at the command center late Monday morning. “We began an immediate land search, to include the tracking dogs from Caledonia Prison, and called in the Highway Patrol helicopter for an aerial search using infrared cameras. We even had a Coast Guard helicopter en route to us, but it got diverted to answer a search and rescue call out in the ocean.”
Smith added that the search area encompassed the majority of Morgan’s 700-to-800 acres of land, most of which is wooded, to include a portion along both sides of the Cutawhiskey Creek. Morgan’s ATV was discovered Sunday night, stuck in the mud, but he was no where to be found.
“You’re talking about six square miles of nothing but woods,” Smith noted. “We used maps to grid off that large area and then mapped out the individual areas to search. Thankfully this search ended with good news to report.”
Smith said Morgan was found roughly 600 feet from the deserted ATV.
“We searched that area thoroughly on Sunday night and on Monday,” Smith stressed. “We believe he was on the move the whole time, basically coming back to near the area where the ATV was.”
Smith added that Morgan did not appear to be physically injured, but he did seem “out of sorts.” Morgan was taken to Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital for observation.
Morgan, a veterinarian, is well-known among avid outdoorsmen with his lifelong love affair with bird dogs and field trials that began 70 years ago. His highly trained bird dogs have won numerous field trial championships across the nation. His dogs have been invited to the Invitational several times and four have qualified and competed in the National Championship.
Morgan has served on the Purina Board for the Top Bird Dog Award where he is respected by his fellow committee members and the Purina representatives not only for his high ethical values but for fighting to keep the sport that he loves so dearly both honest and fair. He was also responsible for founding the Purina Top Amateur Award in 2007, an award that has gained in great popularity over the last few years.
Dr. Morgan has graciously donated his time and talent to judge field trials throughout the country from the Prairies to the Deep South. He is respected by his fellow judges and by both professional and amateur handlers for his knowledge of bird dogs, his fairness, and most of all, his honesty and integrity.
He purchased the tract of land in Hertford County in 1989, carefully developing it to be the now permanent home of the Virginia Amateur Field Trial Association. These same grounds are also being made available to other field trial clubs for running all-age, shooting dogs and bird hunter stakes.
Thanks to a group of highly skilled individuals that walk on two legs instead of four, Dr. Morgan can continue to enjoy the vast tract of Hertford County land he developed.