Man missing in woods rescued after his dog leads off-duty cop to scene

A 78-year-old man who crashed his car in New Jersey woods was rescued thanks to his loyal dog and an eagle-eyed off-duty cop


By Michael Sheridan
New York Daily News

MANCHESTER, N.J. — A 78-year-old man who crashed his car in the middle of the wilderness in New Jersey was rescued thanks to his loyal dog and an eagle-eyed off-duty cop.

The elderly man had vanished last Friday evening, and officers spent hours searching for him before he was discovered in his crashed car inside a section of the heavily forested 251-acre Crossley Preserve.

This image shows the dog who helped an off-duty cop find its owner, who was missing after crashing in the woods.
This image shows the dog who helped an off-duty cop find its owner, who was missing after crashing in the woods. (Manchester Police (N.J.) Department)

Authorities started looking for Fred Rapp when his daughter reported him missing just after 8 p.m. on Nov. 27, Manchester Police said Thursday. He had been last seen about four hours earlier.

His daughter, Heidi Sarno, gave police Rapp’s cellphone number, his vehicle and his medical conditions. Manchester police then began a search, and tried several times to call the phone, but got no answer.

They determined he was somewhere within the Preserve, and used a drone in order to search the dense woods. They also drove through several trails as they struggled to pinpoint his location.

This continued until nearly 6 a.m. the next day, when officials finally found the 78-year-old. They called his phone one more time, and discovered someone had located Rapp and his wayward vehicle.

Manchester Sergeant Charles Brooks was out hunting in the Preserve early that morning when he came upon a dog on a trail, authorities said. The canine was Rapp’s pet, named Petie.

“Sgt. Brooks assumed the dog had wandered from its owner and decided to attempt to reunite the dog with its owner,” police said in a post on Facebook.

Brooks then tracked the dog’s paw prints for several hundred yards, which led him to Rapp’s crashed vehicle, officials said. Shortly after is when police tried again to call Rapp’s cellphone, and he finally answered.

The police sergeant then got on the phone and gave his fellow officers their location. Authorities soon arrived and Rapp was taken to Community Medical Center for evaluation.

“This situation highlights the fact that a police officer is a police officer 24/7,” said Manchester Police Chief Lisa Parker. “We are truly fortunate that Sgt. Brooks was in the right place at the right time because without his help there is no telling how this story would have ended.”

NEXT: Expected and unexpected uses of police drones

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