An Iowa man is alive and well thanks to a search-and-rescue drone.
On July 13, the Kossuth County Sheriff’s Department rescued missing boater Thomas Fitzpatrick and his granddaughter after the boat he was piloting became stuck in a logjam along the Plum Creek Dam area. To make matters worse, Fitzpatrick suffered a heart attack while stuck on the boat.
Fortunately, the sheriff’s department recently trained a deputy to pilot a DJI Phantom 4 for just such an emergency.
“We knew we only had about 40 minutes to find them before it became dark,” Deputy Josh Missman told The Algona Upper Des Moines, adding that the Phantom located the stranded pair less than four minutes from launch. The KCSD bought the drone in May and Missman completed his training in June.
Before the aircraft’s arrival, the stranded duo spent a harrowing three hours stuck in the water while Fitzpatrick’s condition worsened. Police estimate the rescue time window would have been longer if not for the drone.
After the Phantom located Fitzpatrick and his granddaughter, the drone continued to hover over the beleaguered boat and helped direct EMT and rescuers to the site.
“We were sitting on the river, and I heard that funny noise,” Fitzpatrick recalls. “I looked up and saw that drone and waved.”
Algona Upper Des Moines Editor Mindy Baker reports:
“The drone video shows Penton working with Fitzpatrick, while his granddaughter shakes hands with [Kossuth County Sheriff Deputy Jake] Radmaker. They help Fitzpatrick put on his life vest, and then, carrying Fitzpatrick and holding on to his granddaughter, float the two across the river, pulling them up onto the east bank.”
EMT workers rushed Fitzpatrick to a nearby hospital where he was treated and later released. “I never had an opinion on drones before, one way or the other,” he said. “I’m now a fan.”
DJI spokesperson Adam Lisberg said success stories like Fitzpatrick’s underline the importance of drones in SAR operations.
“People have used the Phantom 4 for an enormous range of purposes, including rescue services, but I can tell you that this is the most dramatic example we’ve seen in which a Phantom 4 may have helped save someone’s life,” he said. “We’re very proud to have helped play a part in this rescue.”