Athens County Project Lifesaver Program Completes Successful Rescue

Athens County Project Lifesaver Program Completes Successful Rescue

Sunday, April 29th was a warm, sunny spring day in Athens County, Ohio. Marshall Ruth, a 77-year-old male with dementia, decided to take a walk in the rural area near his home. When his family noticed he had wandered off and could not locate him, they contacted the Athens County Sheriff’s Office.

Thankfully, Marshall is enrolled in the Buckeye Hill Regional Council’s Athens County Project Lifesaver Program. The Athens Sheriff’s Office is a partner in the program. Deputy D. J. McCollister and Lt. Jason Kline drove out to the man’s home. As they were nearing Marshall’s house, they picked up a signal from a transmitter that Marshall was wearing that indicated he was near their location.

Despite the fact that Marshall was concealed from view by heavy vegetation, made no noise and was unable to move, the officers were able to hone in on his signal and find him. He was then examined by the Emergency Medical Service personnel who determined that he had suffered only a few scratches on his head. Marshall had apparently wandered from the road and fallen down a 20-foot hill.

Project Lifesaver is a search and rescue program. It utilizes radio technology to locate individuals who are cognitively impaired and have wandered from their caregivers. If a person wanders and cannot be located, caregivers call 911.  The caregiver informs the Sheriff’s office that their loved one is enrolled in the program. Project Lifesaver-trained deputies begin the search by tuning a receiver to a specific frequency of a radio transmitter worn by the missing individual on his/her ankle or wrist.  Download a brochure

“Had it not been for the Project Lifesaver Program equipment, we would not have found Marshall,” said Lt. Jason Kline from the Athens Sheriff’s Office.  Kline said he wasn’t yelling or saying anything, he was just looking around. “Deputy McCollister and several others could not see Marshall over the hill when they drove by,” added Kline. Using the equipment, Lt. Kline and Deputy McCollister were able to find Marshall in just over an hour.  “The equipment worked flawlessly and led us right to him. We were able to save this man’s life,” Lt. Kline stated.

Buckeye Hill Regional Council’s Project Lifesaver program manager Cathy Ash, LSW, considers the ‘what ifs’: “Marshall was not seriously injured in his fall, but was stuck in the heavy vegetation. Just beyond where he fell there was a stream that could have proven hazardous. That Sunday was a warm day, but that night the temperature dropped to 29 degrees. He was found before he suffered hypothermia, dehydration or additional injury. Finding a lost individual in the first 24 hours is critical to survival; as time passes, the chances of safely recovering an individual drops dramatically.”

Lt. Jason Kline, a resident of Nelsonville, has been a part of the Athens County community for many years. “I’m very thankful that we have access to the Project Lifesaver program, equipment and training. Without the Project Lifesaver program, with a situation like this, there is the likelihood that we may not find the person alive,” Kline stated.

Buckeye Hills Regional Council serves an eight-county region in southeast Ohio. Buckeye Hills partners with the Sheriff’s Office in each of the counties and provides funding, equipment, training and ongoing support for the Project Lifesaver program.  Unfortunately, there is no dedicated funding source for Project Lifesaver equipment.

Funds used to purchase equipment have come from donations or other fundraising methods.  Each transmitter costs $250. It costs $25 a year to supply batteries and bands.  In addition, each receiver used to search for individuals costs $1,025.  Additional receivers means that more trained deputies are able to get involved in the search. In 2017 the Buckeye Hills region-wide program enrolled 64 individuals in Project Lifesaver.  In 2018 eight more individuals were added to the regional program. Enrollees may be adults who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, children with Autism, or person suffering from other forms of dementia or some form of cognitive impairment.

If you would like to donate to help sustain the Project Lifesaver program in your community, please send a donation to Buckeye Hills Regional Council, 1400 Pike Street, Marietta, Ohio, 45750 or call 1-800-331-2644 with questions. You may also donate through the Sponsor a Senior Program’s

Go Fund Me online and designate your county of choice by clicking on this link