An Open Letter to the Community from the Los Alamos Police and Fire Chiefs:
Los Alamos County Emergency responders are very fortunate to be able to provide a robust response to events like the one involving the missing child in White Rock on Tuesday of this week. The Los Alamos Fire Department (LAFD) and Los Alamos Police Department (LAPD) are quite visible during these events, but many more less visible people and agencies contributed to this successful effort.
As Chiefs of the Los Alamos Fire Department and Los Alamos Police Department, we want to make sure our community understands who contributed to ensure the safe return of this lost child.
At around 10:20 a.m. on Tuesday, Pinon School officials noticed and reported that a 5th grade male had walked off campus and was missing. LAPD responded immediately and began to assess the situation. Initial reports indicated that this missing child had told other children that he was going to leave and go into the canyon. No specifics were given as to what canyon. As more information was gained, LAPD began to call for help, including LAFD.
Even though it was likely this child was acting on his own, going into the canyon alone during the heat of the day brought about many dangers. There are many areas where injury could occur because of a fall, or there could be exposure to an animal or a rattle snake. Worse yet, we had to consider the potential for a wandering child to be picked up by an adult with bad intentions. It was important to aggressively look for this lost child. These search efforts occurred throughout the day until approximately 6 p.m. when the missing child was located.
Many people and agencies contributed to this successful effort. Search and rescue efforts by County responders were aided by Bandelier Park Rangers, LANL emergency responders who flew drones, the State of New Mexico Search and Rescue Team, and many civilian volunteers who walked portions of White Rock in search of this missing child. Classic Air Medical provided search assistance, flying over the area free of charge.
Notification efforts to citizens that increased awareness were distributed by local news media. LANL Emergency Managers utilized their employee notification system to alert LANL employees to be on the lookout for the missing child. Centerra protective force also alerted their staff at vehicle access portals to watch for the missing child. The Church of Latter Day Saints provided sandwiches to the command post to feed tired responders and volunteers who walked many miles over some rough terrain.
School Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus and Assistant School Superintendent Jennifer Guy came to the command post and offered the use of school facilities if the search continued into the night. LAPD/LAFD Chaplains provided support to the responders and volunteers throughout the event. Los Alamos County dispatchers took the original call for help, fielded calls with additional information, and coordinated response efforts not only for the search effort, but many other emergency calls throughout the day. Many other County employees were either directly involved in the search or offered to assist in the effort.
This event shows how wonderful our community is and reinforces our belief that this community is full of great people who are willing to give when others are in need. Thank you all for your efforts in this successful search. We are fortunate to be emergency response Chiefs in such a great place to live. It is almost certain that we forgot to mention someone or an agency who helped in this effort, but just know we appreciated the help with or without mention in this letter.
Dino Sgambellone, Police Chief and Troy Hughes, Fire Chief