High-tech tools help GPD find lost hikers


Published: Saturday, January 6, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 5, 2007 at 11:58 p.m.

High-tech gadgets helped Gainesville police officers find a Tampa couple and their two dogs Thursday evening after they got lost in San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park in northwest Gainesville.

Facts

On the trail

  • The trails: San Felasco Hammock's six hiking trails, one horse riding trail and one bicycle trail are marked every half mile with location markers.
  • The tools: Using a FLIR infrared imaging camera and night-vision goggles, the GPD helicopter crew located the hikers after asking them to hold up a cell phone — which was visible to the light and temperature sensors on the camera and the goggles.

Using an infrared camera and night-vision goggles, Gainesville Police Officer Bryan Smith, the pilot, and Officer Mike Barnes found the couple and their dogs within 15 minutes of their call to 911 at 6:25 p.m.

Mike Floyd and his girlfriend, whose name was not released, got lost while hiking on one of San Felasco's six hiking trails just before sundown. The pair had walked off a trail, and Floyd called 911 when the pair couldn't find their way back to the trail, said Randy Brown, park manager.

The helicopter crew was on a routine flight when it was dispatched to look for the couple. Using a FLIR infrared imaging camera and night-vision goggles, Smith and Barnes located the pair first using the FLIR camera and then using the night-vision goggles after asking Floyd to hold up his cell phone — which was visible to the light sensors on the goggles, Smith told The Sun.

The air unit was able to direct a park ranger to the couple's location and they were found unharmed about 50 yards away from a trail, Smith said.

GPD and the Alachua County Sheriff's Office share a Joint Aviation Unit and last week, the Sheriff's Office pilot found a woman who got lost in the park, Smith said.

"With this technology, we were able to find them within 15 minutes," Smith said. "I doubt they would've been found until morning if it were just a ground search."

This isn't the first time hikers have gotten lost in the 7,000-acre park, according to Brown.

"It's kind of common," Brown said. "In this case and the one last week, the hikers didn't take a map with them. They also started at a time when it got dark before they could finish their hiking."

In the previous incident, Brown said the woman got lost on a marked trail. The park's trails — there are six hiking trails, one horse riding trail and a bicycle trail — are marked every half mile with location markers.

"Our trails are marked well enough that even if you don't take a map, you shouldn't get lost," Brown said. "You have to use good sense in a wilderness area and be aware of your surroundings."

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top