King County Search and Rescue was called to the island last Thursday to search for a missing 73-year-old woman, who, early the next morning, was reported to be safe and staying with a friend.
King County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Ryan Abbott said that the woman was reported missing by a family member about 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 27, after she had missed her Access bus pickup in town in the afternoon. King County Search and Rescue was called in about 9:30 p.m. Both ground and dog teams responded, Abbott said, as did King County’s Gaurdian 1 helicopter and members of Vashon’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), which regularly trains for search and rescue situations.
Vashon Island Fire & Rescue Assistant Chief Bob Larsen, who was also involved with the search, said the sheriff’s office “pinged” the woman’s cell phone, with the results indicating she was in the Cedarhurst area. That information later was determined to be incorrect. Abbott said he could not explain the error, but stated it is an anomaly that sometimes occurs.
As part of the effort, CERT members searched the downtown area, including the inside of the Vashon Library and Granny’s Attic, which had been deemed possible places she might have been, Larsen said.
Jan Milligan, who heads CERT, noted that 15 members turned out for the search that night, staying active until about 2 a.m. Then it was determined that the best plan of action would be for King County Search and Rescue to work through the night, and for CERT members to go home, sleep and resume in the morning. Milligan noted that she expected that additional CERT volunteers would have joined the group at that time.
Milligan also acknowledged the work of Rick Wallace, who was the volunteer on call that night in charge of emergency alerts for Voice of Vashon. He quickly disseminated the information to Voice of Vashon outlets and to social media. In fact, Abbott said, it was a Voice of Vashon alert that resolved the situation. A friend of the woman’s read the notice early in the morning and called her brother to say she was safe.