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Old 12-26-2015, 09:44 PM   #1
poconoron
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82 year old hunter missing

Does anyone know whether that 82 year old hunter missing near Horicon in mid-November was ever located? What happened to the thread that appeared here shortly afterward?
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Old 12-26-2015, 10:24 PM   #2
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Mr. Thomas Messick. No trace found after 2 weeks (through the weekend after Thanksgiving) of active large scale SAR. "Limited operations" continuing.
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Old 12-26-2015, 11:38 PM   #3
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Perhaps it is time to bring in help of a different nature. Some Psychics have achieved a history of limited success in finding lost people or bodies. How they do this is beyond me but I would think that the family would find relief in soliciting the services of a psychic with experience. I knew one years ago who went on to a brilliant career helping police solve mystery cases. Granted there are probably those who cannot meet the demands of some due to inability or bad luck but now that forty six days have passed since the disappearance of this man it is either time to try anything or try nothing. Comments?
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Old 12-27-2015, 10:41 AM   #4
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A lady came into the staging center and claimed she knew there were space aliens in the area, and that she could help find Mr. Messick. I believe she was politely shown to the door.

I actually asked a ranger I was with about how often psychics offer their "services" because I have heard of that happening in other cases. Occasionally the family will hire one, "for a small fee" of course (not to be paid by the DEC or SAR operations), as the family and the time become more desperate. But they wouldn't be allowed to interfere with official operations being carried out. If it is comforting for the family to go that route, then they can do so, on a non-interference basis. If their suggestions happen to match what is being or already has been done anyway, so be it. Most often seen as the official SAR field operation begins to wind down. I do not know if this happened or not in the final days of official Messick SAR ops.

Operations does as much as possible to ease the family's fear and grief. Mr. Messick had a very large family contingent on-scene, and they were given a detailed debrief with charts and coverage maps and numbers at the end of each search day. All questions were answered to the best of the Ops Chief's ability. In general, following a reasonable suggestion of an action not already pursued might happen if at all possible.

The official investigation of circumstances and interviews to gain ever more information and clues never stops during SAR operations, and continues after field operations cease. Often times a late coming clue from a credible source will change the direction of the missing person incident. There were absolutely no clues found in the field that would help determine how to limit the daily expanding search for Mr. Messick. Without such direction, ever expanding the possible search area becomes an intractable geometric increase of time and resources. Success is dependent only on mathematical probabilities formalized from thousands of previously studied cases.
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Old 12-27-2015, 12:40 PM   #5
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The most unbelievable part of the woman's aliens story is not that there might be some alien involvement, which is highly dubious and doubtful but how would she help find the man? Does she know the aliens? Is she an intermediary? Is she a rep of the alien union? Okay, all levity aside as it is a serious topic, based on the experience of other cases what do you think are the most logical scenarios for the disappearance of the old man?
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Old 12-27-2015, 02:14 PM   #6
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Okay, all levity aside as it is a serious topic, based on the experience of other cases what do you think are the most logical scenarios for the disappearance of the old man?
If we could answer that, he would have been found.

There are numerous interesting case study papers and texts (Lost Person Behavior) that lead to various probabilities, but individual specific cases are difficult to precisely pin down. I've spoken with several DEC rangers since the Messick incident, and we are all equally baffled.

I can only relay some of the public facts as I know them:

- The first few days were very dry and warm, with fluffy leaf litter up to 8 inches thick. Rain later matted down the thick layer of leaves. Any clues dropped early could easily have been buried. Footprints would not be easy to spot without a lucky sandy or dry dirt patch.

- He was wearing camo clothing top and bottom. Even though warm during the day, it got down to 20 degrees those first couple of nights, 40's or so at night thereafter. I asked a searcher who was wearing camo to curl up on the ground next to a log. He virtually disappeared from sight, especially if you were only casually glancing in his direction.

- The woods are thick with many deadfall logs and root balls that could be used as shelters if need be. Mr. Messick was said to be an experienced woodsman and an outdoor trainer himself in earlier days. Each deadfall requires a visual scan underneath on all sides.

- The extensive cedar and spruce swamps are thick and damp with almost continuous overlapping downed trees and root balls. Not at all inviting for travel, but were searched extensively anyway.

- There are sheer cliffs with large jagged boulders stacked for some distance out from the bottom, with plenty of holes to crawl or fall into. Searched as much as possible.

- There are multiple old overgrown logging roads and faint ghost trails throughout the area. These and their immediate vicinity were searched in linear fashion for any possible clue, out to distances well outside the prime search area.

- All segmented areas within the most probable 1.5 mile radius from Last Known Place (LKP) were tight grid searched as thoroughly as possible, with the most probable areas checked multiple times, running 90 degrees to the previous grid. If after a grid search the Probability of Detection (POD) was for whatever reason low, and the Probability of (being in the) Area (POA) was high, the area was searched again multiple times.

Lakes, ponds, shorelines, and open marshes were searched multiple times, first by helicopter, then by foot, then by divers. FLIR was flown by helicopter throughout the search area, but not for the first couple of days. Negative results in all cases.

- However... there were hundreds of searchers participating throughout the period, both trained and untrained. Very large grid search crews are difficult for crew bosses to manage and to guarantee a high POD, especially if individuals are inexperienced or out of shape. I had as many as 19 searchers at once to manage, sharing the load with one other ranger. When solo I had as many as 11 in a line crew. A line of five or six line searchers would be most ideal, but that was not to happen. It takes only a couple of seconds for an inattentive line searcher to miss an important clue, especially in the thick undergrowth or leaf litter.

- Mathematical probability models and Bayesian search theory were used to update daily planning and operations search assignments. This is a proven process and makes use of numerous case specific situational analyses, whether or not specific clues are found. Daily negative or positive clue and other investigative results will modify crew assignments for the next day. As more and more negative results are found, further analysis of Rest of World (ROW) potential scenarios is expanded.

- There are only two possibilities. Either we missed him within the search area for any number of reasons, or he is in Rest of World (ROW). Aliens? Who knows? Continuing land grid search techniques without further limiting information to feed the models quickly becomes impractical or impossible. It is up to findings of the professional investigators to determine scenarios and any continuing actions to take beyond. It is not appropriate here for me to speculate beyond this.
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Old 12-27-2015, 02:42 PM   #7
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@wldrns Thanks for detailed description of the SAR operation.


Cold comfort for the Messick family but Geraldine "Inchworm" Largay was found two *years* after being reported lost on the Appalachian Trail. Weeks of searching produced nothing. Her remains were accidentally discovered well off-trail and beyond the perimeter of the original search effort. Given infinite resources, one can search far and wide but in real life you have to set boundaries around probable areas. Unfortunately, in this case, she was outside the boundary.
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Old 12-27-2015, 02:57 PM   #8
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Wldrns..................thanks for that very detailed report summary. For some reason the news coverage seemed to drop off the map and even the thread on this forum on the topic was nowhere to be found, at least by me.

It is amazing to me that this fellow disappeared in what is not a particularly large or wild area.
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Old 12-27-2015, 03:51 PM   #9
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.... For some reason the news coverage seemed to drop off the map and even the thread on this forum on the topic was nowhere to be found, at least by me.
Yeah sorry, I ended up deleting the thread that I had started on the subject a few weeks ago. It seemed clear to me that a happy ending was unlikely, and the discussion seemed to begin shifting into a rather negative vibe imho about passing away while lost in the Adks, so I chose to delete it out of respect for Mr. Messick and his friends & family.
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Old 12-27-2015, 04:06 PM   #10
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"@wldrns Thanks for detailed description of the SAR operation." Yes. Thank you for your professional description and assessment. I am sure that the family has been asked about his affect and life quality to determine if he had any ideations which might be clues to self involvement. Families have a way of covering and enabling dementia. These are not jabs aimed toward his family but questions which need to be asked to determine all possible outcomes.

I once walked within ten feet of the remains of a murder victim in extremely dense and rugged cover and never saw anything and this person wasn't wearing camouflage. The body was found much later in what was a famous nationally known case several years ago.

I would say that prayer is still in order that this family might find closure.
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Old 12-27-2015, 04:45 PM   #11
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Wldrns, Thanks for the detailed explanation!
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Old 12-27-2015, 08:25 PM   #12
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It just goes to show how a "routine" hunt in the woods, hike on a well used trail or quick fishing trip can turn in a hurry. I believe feeling Mother Nature is in charge is a pull for many of us and we test her even when conditions are "ideal". This story really made me more aware how fragile we are while enjoying the woods,ponds and mountains. Might not be the Rockies or Alaska, but there is some big woods in Adirondacks. I feel for this man's family and I hope I learn something from this, whether it be wearing some red/orange or wearing a life jacket when in the canoe when I don't normally.
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Old 12-27-2015, 10:51 PM   #13
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Excellent point Chaser.
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Old 12-28-2015, 09:30 AM   #14
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Although prudence is always good insurance, the average hunting, hiking, or fishing trip rarely goes so bad it requires Search and Rescue (SAR) assistance. Yes, there are dangers in the outdoors but the odds of them causing one to require SAR are demonstrably low. That's not merely opinion but a conclusion based on available DEC data.

Last month, I compiled and categorized all DEC SAR incidents reported for 2015 (~11 months of data). An explanation of the results of the results can be found here. In brief, as of November 2015, there were 190 incidents. Here are the top seven categories:
  1. Injured Hiker, 54
  2. Lost Hiker, 48
  3. Distressed Hiker, 29
  4. Overdue Hiker, 8
  5. Injured Snowmobiler, 6
  6. Lost Hunter, 4
  7. Stranded Hiker, 3



Hikers comprised the majority of the incidents (142). That's unsurprising because they represent a sizeable proportion of the annual visitor population. In 1998, a census of hikers was performed in the High Peaks Wilderness and produced a figure of approximately 150,000 visitors annually. Almost two decades later, one can assume that figure has grown to at least 200,000 visitors. 142 incidents out of 200,000 hikers is a vanishingly small proportion.

As of November 2015, four "Lost Hunter" incidents were reported. I don't have data for the annual number of hunters (but it's undoubtedly a sizeable amount). Six hunters were involved in the four incidents. All were found, in good health, except for the last one involving Mr. Messick. His case represents the only "lost person" incident, out of over fifty, that failed to conclude happily.

The overwhelming majority of Adirondack hikers, hunters, fisherman, skiers, bikers, snowmobilers, etc leave the Park without complications requiring SAR assistance. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and enjoy the outdoors.
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Old 12-28-2015, 10:36 AM   #15
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Is there any data on the experience level of the hikers that required assistance? Everyone runs the risk of getting injured, but I'm wondering about the skill/experience level of those that became lost and distressed.
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Old 12-28-2015, 11:21 AM   #16
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I used the data published in DEC Press Releases. Here's an example of "Forest Ranger Actions" for the first half of December:
http://www.dec.ny.gov/press/104406.html

It doesn't contain an official assessment of the rescued individual's experience. One can sometimes infer the level of experience from the details of the incident (dehydration caused by having no water, benighted due to no headlamp, lost because of no map and compass, etc). However, this is, at best, an imprecise means of gauging experience.

Experience may greatly reduce the odds of becoming lost, or disappearing without a trace, but it's not a guarantee. It was reported that Mr. Messick is an experienced hunter and Ms. Largay was an experienced hiker. The former remains missing and the latter was found (in her tent), off-trail and off-route, two years later. Sometimes circumstances trump experience. Fortunately, it happens very infrequently.
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Old 12-28-2015, 03:12 PM   #17
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Is there any data on the experience level of the hikers that required assistance? Everyone runs the risk of getting injured, but I'm wondering about the skill/experience level of those that became lost and distressed.
This summer I was poking around the whitehouse area/NPT with my dog. I made it back to the parking lot by 4pm or so and there were four people coming out of one of the side trails to nowhere. Three looked like they were ready to hit the club and the fourth at least had a book bag type backpack. They were looking for Buckhorn* Lake and wanted to know how far it was from there.

It's at least 4.5 miles and you will likely be coming back in the dark. Do you have flashlights?
No.

A map & compass?
No.

Water?
No.

I gave them my map and suggested that they should just walk to Hamilton Stream Lean-to and to stick on the trail like glue. I was a little worried, but they were adults and the it is the NPT, so I can only do so much. I can certainly see why some hikers can be lost and distressed in the woods. It may be a trail, but its not a sidewalk in town.

*I didn't bother to ask why they wanted to walk to Buckhorn from Whitehouse instead of walking from NYS-8.
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Old 12-28-2015, 04:14 PM   #18
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It's at least 4.5 miles and you will likely be coming back in the dark. Do you have flashlights?
No.

A map & compass?
No.

Water?
No.
And this is just the type who rangers receive a cell call from to come bail out because they can't figure out a trail junction, or they become overcome by darkness. Although most such cases are safely resolved in a very few hours, they still are taking rangers away from potentially far more critical duties.

I am convinced that a large percentage of the "lost hikers" or "distressed hikers", being otherwise healthy, get themselves into trouble and needlessly call for help because they:
1) have the attitude that they can use the cell phone as a bailout crutch and go where they never would have gone otherwise (that's what the phone and DEC Rangers are there for, right?), and/or

2) did not take a little pre-trip time to better prepare with route and trail knowledge and proper gear, and/or

3) did not take a few minutes when confused to sit down to figure out where they were and painlessly discover their own self-extraction route.

In my early days of self-taught backcountry navigation and woodsmanship, (way before the cell phone or GPS), there were often times when I got a bit confused on the way to a remote off-trail destination, but I always figured out how to get myself out of it and successfully continue on. As a matter of fact I discovered that by putting myself into difficult situations and working out the solution, I learned and retained way more than I could have in any other way. Great stuff - "get lost" to figure out how to "stay found". When I teach navigation techniques (I do so on semi-pro and professional levels), I advise my students to do the same, with starting out in "safe" areas with unmistakable boundaries. Don't rely on external communication, work it out by yourself. Need to spend an extra night in the woods? Go for it.
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Old 12-28-2015, 04:49 PM   #19
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I read most of the 190+ reported incidents and some of them did give me a sense they had ticked all three boxes you described.

1) Assumed help is always a phone call away.
2) Unprepared for conditions.
3) Surrendered prematurely.

Incident reports exclude many details, however the latest Distressed Hiker incident seems to support your suspicions.
http://www.dec.ny.gov/press/104527.html

The details of the medical distress that caused the hikers to call for help are not revealed. However, after rest and food, they were able to descend under their own power to McIntyre Falls where they met the rangers. If you can descend from the summit of Algonquin to the Falls, you've covered the most challenging portion of the trail. It suggests the call for help may have been premature. Maybe; without the details I may be drawing the wrong conclusion.
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Old 12-28-2015, 08:19 PM   #20
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Although prudence is always good insurance, the average hunting, hiking, or fishing trip rarely goes so bad it requires Search and Rescue (SAR) assistance. Yes, there are dangers in the outdoors but the odds of them causing one to require SAR are demonstrably low. That's not merely opinion but a conclusion based on available DEC data.

Last month, I compiled and categorized all DEC SAR incidents reported for 2015 (~11 months of data). An explanation of the results of the results can be found here. In brief, as of November 2015, there were 190 incidents. Here are the top seven categories:
  1. Injured Hiker, 54
  2. Lost Hiker, 48
  3. Distressed Hiker, 29
  4. Overdue Hiker, 8
  5. Injured Snowmobiler, 6
  6. Lost Hunter, 4
  7. Stranded Hiker, 3



Hikers comprised the majority of the incidents (142). That's unsurprising because they represent a sizeable proportion of the annual visitor population. In 1998, a census of hikers was performed in the High Peaks Wilderness and produced a figure of approximately 150,000 visitors annually. Almost two decades later, one can assume that figure has grown to at least 200,000 visitors. 142 incidents out of 200,000 hikers is a vanishingly small proportion.

As of November 2015, four "Lost Hunter" incidents were reported. I don't have data for the annual number of hunters (but it's undoubtedly a sizeable amount). Six hunters were involved in the four incidents. All were found, in good health, except for the last one involving Mr. Messick. His case represents the only "lost person" incident, out of over fifty, that failed to conclude happily.

The overwhelming majority of Adirondack hikers, hunters, fisherman, skiers, bikers, snowmobilers, etc leave the Park without complications requiring SAR assistance. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and enjoy the outdoors.
What is the difference between injured and distressed?
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