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Monday, December 10 , 2018, 4:34 am | Fair 49º


Missing Autistic Man Located in Santa Maria Thanks to ‘Project Lifesaver’

Patient who wandered away from group home found in local reservoir thanks to tracking technology

Thanks to ‘Project Lifesaver’ tracking technology, a 19-year-old Santa Maria man with autism was rescued from this reservoir over the weekend after wandering away from his group home. Click to view larger
Thanks to ‘Project Lifesaver’ tracking technology, a 19-year-old Santa Maria man with autism was rescued from this reservoir over the weekend after wandering away from his group home. (Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department photo)

"Project Lifesaver" tracking technology helped locate a missing Santa Maria man with autism in just a few hours last weekend after he was reported missing, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.

Emergency personnel located the 19-year-old near his home by tracking the Project Lifesaver, an electronic transmitter that pinpointed the man’s location, according to spokeswoman Kelly Hoover.

Officials did not release his name.

At about 2:10 p.m. Saturday, caretakers at his home contacted the Santa Barbara County Public Safety Dispatch to report the missing man, Hoover said.

Thanks to the electronic monitoring system, the sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team and a county helicopter were able to locate the man.

SAR team members used the system to direct officers in the helicopter to the area where the signal was coming from, Hoover said.

Air support spotted the missing man swimming in a reservoir about five miles from his home, Hoover said. 

“The unseasonably cold water was up to his neck, and indications were that he had been there for some time and could have easily drowned,” Hoover said.

A sheriff’s volunteer knew the missing man, Hoover said.

“When the teenager heard his familiar voice, he agreed to reach his hands out and was pulled over the slippery water basin to safety,” Hoover said.

The Sheriff’s Office encourages residents who have a family member with dementia, Alzheimer’s, autism, or any condition where they could get lost, to sign up for Project Lifesaver by visiting www.sbsheriff.org.

“The missing teenager’s family is extremely grateful to the rescuers and to Project Lifesaver for potentially saving their child’s life,” Hoover said.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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