Birdwatcher helps police locate missing elderly man stuck in mud

Posted On Tuesday September 14, 2021
A man walking with his dog got stuck in the mud last month
A man walking with his dog got stuck in the mud last month

Last month, a man in his seventies who went for a walk with his dog and got stuck in the mud for several hours was found thanks to an alert birdwatcher.

Marcel Gahbauer gets out for a walk daily, but only visits Bruce Pit about once a month. That’s where he headed on August 13.

He was stopped on his way in by an officer who advised him they were searching for a missing man.

As Marcel goes out to see wildlife, he walks quietly and listens for their sounds rather than wearing headphones. It’s a good thing, because as he traveled on a secondary path on his regular route, he heard a cry for help.

“I’m glad the police alerted me, so I was in a mindset to listen and look for someone,” he said, “even though I didn’t expect to encounter him.”

He called out to let the man know he was coming. The man’s dog met him and led him along a remote path Marcel had never been down before.

“If he hadn’t been calling out,” said Marcel, “I would have missed him.”

Marcel found the man lying on the side of a creek at the bottom of a muddy bank. “He was exhausted and disoriented,” said Marcel. “He was definitely stuck. It was impossible for me to lift him out myself.”

He dialed 911 and gave the telecommunicator his location to send the officers and paramedics.

Cst. Robert McConnachie has thirteen years of experience as a member of the OPS Emergency Services Unit that looks for missing people. “Navigating through wooded areas to find people in distress is what we train for,” he said.

Police and paramedics freed the man and carried him on a stretcher about 300 metres through the forest to safety. While doing so, they endured extreme heat, bugs, trip hazards and even bee stings.

“It was incredibly lucky Mr. Gahbauer found him,” said Cst. McConnachie. “The man had a pre-existing medical condition needing regular medication, temperatures were soaring, he was exhausted, dehydrated and without water.”

Cst. McConnachie went on to say that based on the information officers had about where the man usually walked, they had been searching elsewhere for about an hour and a half. They wouldn’t have gotten to his location for at least a few hours. “In a situation like this, those extra minutes could be crucial to his wellbeing.”

Marcel says he was glad he was in the right place at the right time.

Cst. McConnachie reminds residents that getting outside to enjoy nature and some exercise is great but pack some basic supplies in case things don’t go as you expect.

  • Carry a cell phone and make sure it’s fully charged
  • Bring water and a snack in case you are out longer than you intended
  • If you require regular medication and you are able to safely take it with you, bring some so you don’t miss a dose
  • Let someone know where you are going and how long you will be gone. That way, they can call for help if you don’t return as scheduled
  • If you do need assistance, make sure to call out for help regularly to alert anyone nearby