It was about 8 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 12, in Onia, a small community in Stone County, Arkansas, within the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest. About 24 hours had passed since three-year-old Landen Cade Trammell had wandered away from his home and about 30 Forest Service employees were actively searching for the little boy.
As the second search day began, these Forest Service employees had joined the 300 volunteers and emergency personnel involved in rescue operations, scouring both forest and private land. They included 13 volunteers from the Sylamore Ranger District and 17 volunteers from the Big Piney Ranger District of the Ozark-St. Francis. Nearly half of them were qualified as Search and Rescue (SAR) Tech IIIs and had elected to receive and maintain their training for such kinds of incidents.
Bradley Taylor, an Emergency Medical Technician and SAR Tech from the Big Piney District, was one of those searchers looking for Landen. In early afternoon, about 30 hours after the boy was reported missing, Taylor found the toddler playing in a stock pond located outside the forest boundary. Because of the recent drought, the water level was fairly low.
“I found him sitting and playing in the water making what looked like mud pies; he was playing just like little boys do,” said a relieved Taylor. “He grinned at me as he reached up to receive a small bag of chips and a bottle of water.”
SAR activities come natural to many Forest Service employees who are accustomed to moving through wooded areas. And people who work on National Forests are educated on wilderness safety and spend lots of time reminding people how to stay protect themselves in woodland areas.
“Our employees know what they’re doing; they are typically in good physical condition, have communication equipment, and are trained and equipped for safe operations in the forest,” said Mark Morales, Fire Management Officer for the Big Piney Ranger District and a search volunteer. “They are thoroughly familiar with both the rugged terrain and incident management principles, so we just wanted to be a part of the ‘can do’ attitude that was needed in a time of crisis. We all felt proud of our work that day and proud to be a part of an agency that can offer such service.”