A missing hunter was found in Oregon County, Missouri, after the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office successfully deployed its helicopter to assist the Oregon County Sheriff’s Office with its search Nov. 26.
Osborne Elliott, 62, of St. Louis, was found injured after failing to return to his deer camp the day before.
“They reached out and said they had lost a hunter and asked if they could use our helicopter to assist,” said Baxter County Sheriff John Montgomery. “So our helicopter was launched, and our pilot and a spot traveled over there. Our guys found him. I think he had a broken leg and probably would not have survived the night.”
Baxter County Sheriff Deputy and pilot Benny Magnus flew the rescue flight alongside Lieutenant Rick Lucy, who served as helicopters spotter during the rescue.
Together, the two men were able to navigate rescue team members who were mounted on ATVs to Elliot’s position. Elliot had left his camp on County Road 318, located between Thayer and Alton in Oregon County, to hunt deer the previous morning.
At some point, he became lost and disoriented while navigating through the woods. His cousin reported him missing after he failed to return to the camp in the evening.
A search team composed of the Oregon County Sheriff’s Office Officers and K9, Missouri Department of Conservation, local landowners, and volunteers looked for Elliot throughout the night and into the early morning hours of the next day.
Oregon County Sheriff Eric King thanked Baxter County and those who volunteered after Elliot was rescued.
The Baxter County Sheriff’s Office owns and operates two Bell OH-58 Kiowa that were purchased from the U.S. Army for $1,300. The offices’ main helicopter was created in 1971 and was the first helicopter to be purchased for use by a law enforcement agency in Arkansas.
Both helicopters were originally stored at the Baxter County Airport before being moved over to the Sheriff Office’s personal airport.
“When I took office, our helicopter was housed at a hangar at the airport,” Montgomery said. “They paid $4,500 a year in hangar rental to rent that space out. It was a pain. When you needed the helicopter, you had to drive out and meet the pilot and get everything out. You have to wheel it into place. You have to put all the transport equipment back in.”
After searching for ways to save time in getting the helicopters in the air quicker, Montgomery applied for a grant to build a new airport outside of the Sheriff’s Office. He successfully won the grant, and the airport was built with an additional $14,000 from county funds.
The Sheriff’s Office runs both helicopters on a budget of $15,000 a year thanks to the office’s pilots and mechanic, all of whom fly and maintain the aircraft for free.
“The mechanic donates his time. He is a certified helicopter mechanic, and he donates his time,” Montgomery said. “The pilots donate their time. That number, the $15,000, includes insurance, maintenance, fuel, everything.”