CAP’s cell phone forensics leads searchers to 6 found alive in Nevada

Two adults and four children missing nearly two days in bitter winter conditions in rural northwestern Nevada’s mountainous Seven Troughs Range were found alive and well Tuesday afternoon by Civil Air Patrol in coordination with the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office, Fallon Naval Air Station, Washoe County Regional Aviation Enforcement Unit, Nevada National Guard Lakota helicopters and the state Division of Emergency Management.

Nevada Wing Commander Col. Tim Hahn said Maj. Justin Ogden and Col. Brian Ready, CAP’s cell phone forensics experts, played a critical role in helping rescuers narrow the search area, according to CAP officials.

“The cell phone forensics team pinpointed where they could not possibly be and their efforts were very time-consuming,” he said Dec. 10. “This morning they provided a key clue that redirected the search and led to the rescue.”

A searcher with binoculars spotted the missing family’s silver 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee about the time one of the CAP aircrews did, Hahn said.

A Pershing County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue ground team then retrieved the six — a 34-year-old man, a 25-year-old woman and four children ages 10, 4, 4 and 3.

The couple and the children did not return after driving into the Seven Troughs area about noon Sunday to play in the snow. Overnight temperatures fell as low as 20° below zero.

For its role in the coordinated search, Hahn said he has been told the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center will award the Nevada Wing with six saves.

The CAP members’ role in the search began Monday with the AFRCC’s authorization at the request of the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office. The first day, Hahn said, two Nevada Wing planes and 14 CAP members participated, contributing 80 man-hours and “constant coverage … of a relatively small search area.”

Two more CAP planes joined the mission Tuesday.

Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with 61,000 members nationwide, operating a fleet of 550 aircraft. CAP, in its Air Force auxiliary role, performs 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 80 lives annually. Its unpaid professionals also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. The members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to more than 26,000 young people currently participating in the CAP cadet programs. CAP received the World Peace Prize in 2011 and has been performing missions for America for 72 years.

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