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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Deputies' late-night search saves man's life

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

David Thompson apparently abandoned his golf cart near the edge of Glenn Flint Lake Sunday afternoon before walking into the woods. Deputies found him nearly 12 hours after he was last seen, lying in the woods unresponsive, with a body temperature more than 20 degrees below normal.
A Greencastle man would likely have frozen to death Monday morning if not for a late-night search by two Putnam County Sheriff's deputies.

Having called off the search for 53-year-old David Thompson on Sunday evening due to darkness and thickening fog, deputies T.J. Smith and Philip Troyer decided to go back into the woods at around 2:30 a.m.

After a hike through the woods, they found Thompson unresponsive on the ground, in the process of freezing to death.

"I'm glad we went back because if we hadn't, he wouldn't have made it," Smith said.

Deputies first learned of Thompson's disappearance at around 5:30 Sunday evening. His fiancée was at the Clinton Township Fire Department, reporting she had found a suicide note from Thompson, along with several pill bottles and his golf cart.

She reported she had last seen Thompson between 3 and 4 p.m.

When Smith arrived on the scene, he found Thompson's golf cart on a path near the boat ramp and four empty bottles of pills along the path.

He also found several searchers emerging from the woods, which meant a canine officer would have been unable to pick up Thompson's scent.

Both Smith and Deputy Donnie Pettit were on the scene by this time, but progressing darkness and fog meant conditions would be treacherous for searchers.

Smith made the call to cancel the search until morning.

"I didn't want someone else getting over in the lake or lost in the woods," Smith said.

However, later in his shift, Smith's thoughts returned to Thompson. With temperatures dropping, he knew someone out in the woods was unlikely to survive the night. Troyer decided to accompany him on the search.

"We were realizing it was freezing outside," Smith said. "This guy wasn't going to make it."

Returning to the lake, the two officers started their search at the abandoned golf cart. They worked their way west until Troyer said he doubted Thompson would have walked toward residences.

Turning around, they made their way east, walking sometimes along the water's edge and sometimes through thickening woods.

Finally, they came to a thicker part of the woods where the officers thought Thompson might be.

"For some reason, my gut was telling me we ought to go this way," Troyer said. "It was thick enough that I thought someone would hide there."

As they continued their search, Smith heard a grunting noise. The two men at first thought it was a deer, but decided it must be a human when it did not run away.

Realizing the sound was snoring, they turned their lights in that direction and found Thompson on the ground. He had a pulse, he was unresponsive but his breathing was shallow.

Smith also said he was "ice cold to the touch."

As Troyer went for help, Smith stayed with Thompson, trying to warm him up and get him to respond.

When they located him at 2:53 a.m., he had been missing for nearly 12 hours.

Troyer called for an air ambulance, but the fog made it impossible.

When he returned with Operation Life and Clinton Township Fire personnel, Thompson was loaded into a rescue basket and carried out of the woods.

Even on arrival at Putnam County Hospital, Thompson's body temperature was 78 degrees. The emergency room doctor confirmed for Smith that between outside temperatures and the drugs in Thompson's body -- seven pill bottles were found in total -- he would not have survived until morning.

After Thompson's condition stabilized at the Putnam County Hospital, he was transported on to the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Indianapolis.

Troyer called the VA, receiving confirmation that Thompson's condition remained stable and he was going to survive.

When deputies found the man, he had with him an open knife, letters to family members, his will, another suicide note and legal documents relating to his property.

Troyer said he was asked why the officers saved a man who apparently wanted to take his own life anyway. His answer was simple.

"He can do that, but not on our watch," Troyer said.

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I pray he wakes and sees that God was not ready for him to leave this earth yet. That he was put on this earth for a purpose and until God calls him home he is needed and loved on this earth. I pray he finds the help he needs and I am thankful for those who didn't give up on this man and found him. This is a true blessing.

-- Posted by onetwomany97 on Wed, Dec 19, 2012, at 7:07 AM

I am thankful the officers went back out to search. I appreciate their dedication and service.

-- Posted by HikingGirl on Wed, Dec 19, 2012, at 10:37 AM

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