Derbyshire Police use drone to save ‘confused’ elderly man who left hospital on freezing winter night

An elderly man who went missing from hospital in Chesterfield on a freezing December night was rescued by officers, after a last-minute decision to widen their search area using a drone.

By Tom Hardwick
Saturday, 8th January 2022, 3:43 pm
The drone was able to pick up the heat source of the missing man, on the right, and guide officers to him.

The man, in his eighties, was being treated for an infection at Chesterfield Royal Hospital when he left in a confused state at around 11.10pm on December 1. It was a particularly cold night, and the man was not dressed for the conditions, wearing only a thin padded jacket, jumper, and trousers.

An extensive police search ensued in the coming hours, with the man making a call to a relative to say he was at a bus stop in Brimington, miles away from the hospital. Officers combed that area and employed a drone to help find him, but all efforts to locate him failed.

While Derbyshire Police were requesting for a National Police Air Service helicopter to search the area north of the hospital, Sergeant Kev Harrell decided to use the drone’s remaining battery to fly south of the hospital, just in case.

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Both Derbyshire Police and the daughter of the elderly man said drones were invaluable in these kinds of situations.

He said: “My heart skipped a beat when I located a heat source in a field- a heat source of a person- in a ditch behind some houses. I guided local officers in with the aid of the floodlight on the drone and it was great news- the heat source was the missing man we had been looking for.”

“He was found, freezing cold and clearly unwell at 5.30am on December 2, approximately six hours after he had walked out of the hospital. Medical staff later confirmed that if he had not been found at that time, he would have likely died from hypothermia.”

“It was a great effort from all involved and just goes to show the importance of having a drone readily available for deployment, and the fact that it saves lives.”

The man’s daughter thanked Derbyshire Police for their work, and said the drone was crucial in getting her father to safety.

“That night, officers did a brilliant job, working tirelessly to find my dad and ensure that he was safe.

“People need to know about this, as without the police and their ability to access a drone, the outcome could have been so different.

“Offering my gratitude and sharing this story is the least I can do after they saved his life, thank you so much.”

The man has now made a full recovery from his illness and is back at home.