Port Charlotte, FL – November 7, 2021
At around 10pm Saturday evening, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission contacted CCSO, requesting assistance from the CCSO Aviation Unit in finding a missing hunter out in the 80,000+ acre Cecil Webb WMA.
CCSO Aviation responded, aided in the search by use of aerial night vision and thermal imaging. The team searched the WMA and spotted the missing person sitting in his vehicle in the woods. The man was flashing his lights, trying desperately to signal the rescuers.
Pilot John Bautista relayed the man’s exact location to FWC; however, due to flooding as a result of recent rainfall, no vehicles or FWC personnel were able to get within 3 miles of the man.
By this time, it was nearly midnight, and the temperature had dropped to 54°F. The man was also wet, putting him at an increased risk for hypothermia.
Bautista was able to locate a safe clearing nearby, which was large enough to land, allowing Chief Pilot Shane Engelauf to reach the hunter. Engelauf approached the man and helped him board the helicopter, transporting him safely to FWC, where his condition was medically evaluated.
The man said he was freezing and stated that he did not think he would have survived the night had the Aviation team not found him. He was grateful and apologetic. Engelauf reassured him, simply stating, “That’s why we’re here. If you’re in trouble, we’re going to help.”
“Our Aviation Team continues to provide invaluable service to the people of Charlotte County through search and rescue, fire suppression, and mosquito control. Calls like this one just reinforce the value of that unit, and helps to provide a sense of relief that if they get called out, there’s a good chance that missing person is coming home.”– Sheriff Bill Prummell
The team will be featured on the cover of AgAir Magazine’s November 2021 issue in recognition of their ongoing efforts.