I think that I've said before that I'm a volunteer fireman (that's as close of a thing to a hobby as I have
:) ). My wife is an EMT on the volunteer ambulance service. On Monday evening, July 3rd, we were paged out to search for a 3 year old girl who wandered off into a corn field.
We're from a small community. My youngest child is in this girl's sister's class in school. I know the family - and have since I was in school. As a fireman (and my wife as an EMT), we don't do many traumatic calls. I can count the number of calls that have haunted me on one hand. This could have been one of them.
I think that the newspaper article did a fair job of reporting the facts (missed some things, but got the gist of it) - I'm cutting and pasting because I'm not sure how long the page will be available:
Archived Local Stories
Published: Wednesday, July 5, 2006 12:10 AM CDT
Girl, 3, OK after night in field
By PEGGY SENZARINO, Of The Globe Gazette
TITONKA -- Titonka Fire Chief David Trunkhill is grateful for the hundreds of volunteers who turned out to help search for and ultimately find a missing 3-year-old girl.
Alandra Schutjer, daughter of Greg and Amy Schutjer, went missing from a family gathering about 9 p.m. Monday.
She was located by two neighbors riding all-terrain vehicles at about 8:50 a.m. Tuesday after apparently spending the night in a cornfield with the family dog. Searchers estimate she was only 300 feet from the family's acreage when she was found.
Gary Uken of Titonka was in the group that first spotted the missing child.
"She leapt into her daddy's arms. She was really glad to see Greg. She was really glad to see her daddy," Uken said.
"It was a fantastic outcome. When you get that long into it, you hear stories that don't turn out as well," Trunkhill added.
He said Alandra was "kind of tired and dirty" but otherwise OK when she was found.
He said she seemed confused and said she couldn't find her mom or her dad.
Trunkhill said Alandra told them she slept with her dog in the cornfield and the airplane woke her up in the morning.
He said she asked about her horses and was wondering why all the people were at the family's farm.
Her parents took her to the Kossuth County Regional Health Center in Algona as a precaution.
She apparently went missing after her father went into a cornfield to retrieve a ball which had rolled into the field sometime earlier. He told the kids to stay out, but from what authorities have been able to piece together, Alandra must have followed him in.
The family was heading to a fire pit for a bonfire when they realized the little girl was missing.
More than 150 searchers scoured the area Monday night. An Iowa State Patrol plane equipped with thermal imaging technology was dispatched to the scene.
"It wasn't working as well as we hoped. It was picking up the adults but it wasn't able to penetrate the corn," Trunkhill said.
"Honestly, we didn't think she had gone more than a few hundred feet. She was found in an area we had walked several times."
The little girl must have been between groups of searchers, he said.
The number of searchers looking for the little girl grew to some 350 on Tuesday.
"I just can't thank everybody enough that came to help out," Trunkhill said.
He said the Titonka Food Center donated flashlights, batteries and food. Volunteers from the Hy-Vee store in Algona brought sandwiches and water for searchers.
"It was just unbelievable," Trunkhill said.
Law enforcement agencies from Woden, Wesley, Buffalo Center, Bancroft, Burt, Algona, Forest City, Hancock County and Kossuth County Emergency Management assisted at the scene.
The Titonka School District provided buses to transport volunteers and opened the school for use as a staging area.
I was out there from when the call went out until a bit after 4am. My wife was there for the duration (she was stationed with the ambulance, I was walking the fields).
If you've ever heard that corn should be "knee high by the fourth of July" - I'd like to see that guy. The corn was 8 feet tall in most places. After midnight, we started searching row by row - sets of 10 people walking across the field. If the guy on your left or right was more than 15' from you, you couldn't even see their light. An adult - any adult - could easily have gotten disoriented and lost in the field.
Thankfully she emerged from the field the next morning. It was truly a joyous outcome to a long night.