LOCAL 12 - Search Results
Groundbreaking Technology Helps Find Missing Man
INDEPENDENCE, Ky. (Angenette Levy) -- A volunteer search and rescue group used side scan sonar and new tools it developed to find an Independence man missing for nearly two years.
Mark Smith was last seen on February 16, 2012. His sister reported him missing later that month after he failed to respond to her texts.
Independence Police knew Smith had been in California, Ohio. Detective Jim Moore asked Boone Co. Water Rescue to search an area of the river in that neighborhood.
"Knowing he was in that area. One of the last times anybody seen him, heard from him, actually one of our witnesses put him within that area," said Independence Police Capt. Tony Lucas.
Members of the BCWR used side scan sonar to search the river floor. They found what they believed to be Smith's truck on October 26. On November 2, they sent in divers and pulled Smith's truck from the river near Eldorado Ave.
Side-scan sonar isn't new but the way Boone Co. Water Rescue is using it is new.
Typically sonar picks up an image and displays it on a screen as it is seen from above which is a horizontal image. But team members Mike Dean and Ken Purcell discovered that by rotating the tow fish, the devices that does the scanning, they could pick up better pictures called vertical images.
"When we turn this it'd be just like your standing on the bottom looking right at an object. So we see that whole side and exactly the way it's sitting," Mike Dean said.
Ken Purcell is a computer engineer. He designed tools that can rotate and crop the images produced by the sonar. He also developed a tool that can lay a photo of a vehicle over a vehicle on a sonar image to help determine whether it's the same make and model without sending divers into the water.
"Back in the day, a search for a vehicle could take the whole day for divers to do patterns where we can do it within minutes so there's a huge advantage in these tools," Purcell said.
BCWR used measurements and a photo of a Ford Ranger to analyze the vertical sonar image of the truck found in the river.
"I was probably about 90% certain it was a Ford Ranger. That's the only thing I could tell you at that point."
Divers went into the water on November 2 and believed they had the right truck. Independence Police pulled the vehicle from the river and found it was Smith's truck with his body inside.
"It's a very good feeling. There's a family now that has some closure. They've been missing their brother for almost two years," Purcell said.
Capt. Dale Appel founded BCWR in the 1960's. He's seen the technology evolve over the years. The team has traveled to Colorado, Nebraska, and Tennessee to help find missing people. They've even located guns under water.
"We've increased the efficiency of recovery and rescue," Appel said.
The team also uses vertical imaging to catalog bridge piers along the Ohio River to ensure nothing suspicious is placed near them. 51 volunteers work with BCWR.
BCWR found six other vehicles in the river near Mark Smith's truck. They're hoping the tools they are using will assist in other investigations.
Cincinnati Police are investigating Mark Smith's death to determine how and why he ended up in the river.
Watch video HERE