There is a new group in St. Francois County that meets at the Bonne Terre Airport the third Monday of each month.
Organizers of Mineral Area Search and Rescue felt there was a need for a group like theirs in the area. Mineral Area SAR Director Rick Myers said there were several people involved in the Jacque Waller search in recent years and they recognized there was a need for a group like this.
Waller disappeared from the Cape Girardeau area following a dispute with her estranged husband. After months of exhaustive searching by law enforcement and volunteers, Waller's husband admitted to murdering her and burying her on an island in the Mississippi.
“We saw a need and we want to fill that need,” said Myers. “It would make us happy if we never get called out, but we want to help if the need arises. My favorite searches are the ones we don’t go to because they get canceled on the way.”
The members of Mineral Area SAR are trained volunteers. Each member is trained to go out into the woods or elsewehere and look for a lost or missing person. It could be an Alzheimer’s patient, a child, a hunter or hiker.
They held their first training over the summer and have met for monthly meetings since. The group includes trained individuals as young as 10 years old who accompanied their parents to the training course.
“It’s a 16-hour course over a two-day period on a Saturday and Sunday,” said Myers. “There is classroom work and then going out in the field and searching the woods for predetermined items such as an article of clothing or even small things like a poker chip. During the final stage of the class we actually have someone go out and 'get lost' at a predetermined spot and the volunteers will go out and try to find them as if it were a real setting, putting their training to the test.”
This past summer they trained 40 volunteers including fire department members. They currently have about 15 active volunteers who attend the monthly meetings. They are always looking for new volunteers.
“We did a shoreline rescue class at Terre Du Lac recently,” said Myers. “It’s a water rescue where you can’t get wet. We use ropes, throw bags and things like that. So if one of us should go into the water to search we know how to get them out. We had about 20 people attend that class. Two of us also have search dogs and they are trained on human remains detection.”
The goal is to have a fully-functional team available to central dispatch or the sheriff’s office if the need arises. Anytime they hear of someone who is missing they volunteer their services.
To Myers' knowledge there are no other groups like theirs in the area. They have assisted in the Lynn Messer search, the Waller search and others.
For more information visit their Facebook page titled Mineral Area SAR.