In a story reported exclusively by Montgomeryville-Lansdale Patch Sunday evening, a missing elderly man from Dock Woods in Towamencin, Robert Cuthbertson Sr., 78, was found around 2:13 a.m. on the southbound side of the Northeast Extension, a mile north of the Lansdale interchange.
Towamencin Police Chief Tim Dickinson said Cuthbertson Sr. became disoriented and lost.
"He left his house for a walk on his own," Dickinson said. "Apparently, he had medical issues. Nobody could locate him."
Eleven police and emergency services units responded to assist in the search: Hatfield Police, Franconia Township Police, Montgomery Township Police, Lower Salford Police, Lansdale Police, Volunteer Medical Service Corps of Lansdale medics, VMSC Canine Emergency Search and Rescue Team, Towamencin Fire Department, Montgomery County Public Safety Field Communications, North Penn Goodwill and Philadelphia Police Department's TACAIR air unit.
Dickinson said a command center was stationed at Towamencin Vol. Fire Co. on Bustard Road.
Cuthbertson Sr. went missing around 8:30 p.m. He was able to be reached by cell phone, but could not give his location.
Jonathan Detweiler, battalion chief of VMSC, said the CESAR unit was dispatched before 10 p.m. By the time their unit got to the scene, Montgomery Township Canine was in the midst of ground search work.
CESAR set up two search teams in the local area, he said.
"A lot of times when we get dispatches with a recent time, there's a good chance they are close. We get the dogs on the trail and onto a scent in the highest probability area," Detweiler said.
CESAR searched up until 1 a.m., when Verizon started getting pings on Cuthbertson's cell phone indicating he was in the area of the Northeast Extension. Pings, Detweiler said, are accurate up to a half mile.
CESAR regrouped with the fire company, police units and EMS, and decided to grid out a search area. Four search teams were dispatched, with about six firefigthers from Towamencin Fire Company per search team.
"They started working areas immediately around the Dock community," Detweiler said.
Detweiler said CESAR dogs indicated a strong inkling of Cuthbertson Sr. behind the Walnut Meadows area, which backs up to the turnpike.
"We moved resources to that area and assigned search teams to a tighter area," Detweiler said.
Dickinson said the Cuthbertson Sr.'s son was able to call him on his cell phone. Emergency units listened to the background noise and were able to determine he was on the turnpike.
"We sent the Towamencin Fire deputy chief onto the turnpike," Detweiler said. "The noise of traffic in the background was too much to indicate he was on any kind of backroads."
Detweiler said the deputy chief could see a tractor trailer with four ways on near the Bustard Road turnpike overpass.
"It appeared the driver of the tractor trailer had seen him on side of the road, and was stopping to help him," Detweiler said.
The deputy chief engaged his siren, and emergency officials were able to hear the siren in the background of the phone call.
"He was in the southbound lane of the turnpike, waving down traffic," Detweiler said. "We rode the ambulance out there and VMSC secured the subject. He was home by 2:30 a.m."
Dickinson said Cuthbertson Sr. was found a mile north on the southbound side of Interstate 476.
"We don't know how he got all the way there," Dickinson said. "He didn't know where he was."
Detweiler said Cuthbertson Sr. was able to spend time with his family and get checked out by VMSC medics.
"He appeared in good spirits and in good health," Detweiler said. "He was happy to be found, and the family was content with the outcome."
Cuthbertson Sr. was later transported for treatment to Lansdale Hospital.
Dickinson said police departments like Towamencin have procedures for these situations.
"We had a lot of support from the fire company, VMSC's canine unit and Montgomery Township canine," Dickinson said. "They were integral in the search."
Detweiler said the search and rescue was the epitome of public safety agencies working together at their best.
"It was not necessarily a CESAR find. It was not necessarily a fire find. It was not necessarily a police find. It was the perfect combination of all three disciplines working closely together to make something like this happen," he said. "All we care about is having a successful find."