By Jeffrey Smith, The News On 6
OOLOGAH, OK -- A two-year-old is safe and sound after she wandered off from her parents' campsite at Oologah Lake. Emergency responders from across the region searched for the little girl for nine hours. In the end, a local teenager saved the day.
The Thomas family out of Tulsa was enjoying some vacation time at the lake. The dad took an older sibling to the water for some early morning fishing, leaving his wife and two-year-old Kari in the tent. When he came back, Kari was gone.
There were three choppers, a dozen ATVs, scuba divers and boats equipped with sonar. But, it was a father and son on horseback who saved the day.
"Just kinda had a hunch to look over here," said Chub Brewer.
Even Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton finds it kind of funny.
"Two truly good ol' boys on horseback is who we need to be thankful for here," said Sheriff Scott Walton.
But, for nine hours as the search went on and on, it was no laughing matter. The volunteers and emergency responders left no stone unturned at the 40-acre campsite.
It turns out Kari Thomas was hanging out in the weeds across the highway.
It was 16-year-old Chaz Brewer who heard her first.
"She was sitting down, just sitting up and playing with a weed, and she was hollering daddy," said Chaz Brewer.
"She was in real good shape to be out here all night, and half the day today," said Chub Brewer.
Chub Brewer says they were glad to help.
"Well it meant a lot, a lot. I have a three-year-old grandson, and I can imagine what it'd be like, him not being there. So, it means a lot," said Chub Brewer. "We'd a do it for anybody. It's just the way it is."
Kari is fine. In the ambulance, she was chatting away, acting perfectly normal. She was hungry and thirsty and had tick bites, but was otherwise uninjured.
The Hawthorn Bluff campground covers roughly 40 acres east of Highway 88 to the north and east of Oologah Dam.
Oologah Lake and the campground are operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
On today's date, August 3, 2009 at 0406 AM the Rogers County Sheriff's Office responded to a call of a missing child from the Hawthorne Bluff camping area of Oologah lake.
Upon arrival deputies determined that more resources were needed to begin locating the child, Sakari Thomas, 2.
Bob Anderson, Director of the Rogers County Emergency Management, mobilized resources and manpower upon request of the Sheriff's Office. Within two hours, all resources were on-scene at the command center. Resources and manpower were made available by the following agencies and organizations (listed at end of release)
Fabian told Rogers County investigators that he and his sons were fishing in the early morning hours but that he periodically checked on his wife and child who were asleep at a nearby campsite. Fabian said that about 3 AM he discovered Sakari missing and began searching the immediate area, asking other campers if they had seen his child.
A massive search was undertaken to locate the child. Divers and boat patrols, along with helicopter and airplane patrols were made. Approximately 100 personnel were on scene to assist with the overall efforts. Teams of searchers entered wooded areas and local businesses donated water for the search teams.
Approximately 9 hours after the initial sheriff's office response, volunteers on horseback located the child in an area outside of the search perimeter. The child appeared dehydrated and was transported to a local hospital for treatment.
This was an extraordinary outcome to a terrible event,? said Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton. "I am so very proud of everyone who rushed out and the level of cooperation that existed here. When a child is missing, the best of people comes to the surface and gets put on display for everyone to see." Walton visited with the parents of the child Fabian Thomas and Sarah Thomas. The Thomas' expressed great appreciation for the multiple agencies that arrived to assist in locating the child.
Other area emergency agencies reported a large influx of phone calls from concerned people within the Rogers County community offering to assist in the search.
Bob Anderson, Director of Rogers County Emergency Management said that the efforts of Emergency Management and the responding agencies was, "tremendous. This scene is exactly what is supposed to happen when multiple agencies are needed to come together. Today was fluid and everyone came together perfectly," he said. "Nobody ever wants to think of a child missing but today is an example of how a search and rescue operation are supposed to be handled."
Rogers County Sheriff's Office - 17 Deputies
Owasso Police Department - 9 Officers and 1 K-9
Northwest Fire District - 13 Firefighters and one rescue boat
Oklahoma Highway Patrol - 8 Troopers, one helicopter, one fixed-wing aircraft for assistance
Washington County Emergency Management - 18 personnel, communications trailer, mobile radio repeater for on site use, 6 All Terrain vehicles and two four-wheeler mules.
District 2, County Commissioners - 13 employees, one gator (four wheeler)
Chelsea Fire Department - 4 firefighters
Oologah Talala Emergency Services - Command vehicles and ambulance services
Air-Evac - helicopter
Donna Bosch, Search and rescue - K-9
Volunteers Divers - Leroy Kiassler, Jason Littlefield, Kevin Roberts
American Red Cross - 5 Personnel and scene assistance
US Corps of Engineers - 7 personnel.
Other agencies and personnel on-scene to assist included the Oologah Police Department, County Commissioners Mike Helm and Dan Delozier, Bartlesville Police Department, Tulsa Search and eRescue and Green County Search and rescue.