Pierce City and Monett firefighters have been at the lead of a search for a missing Newton County man. Intense ground searches were underway Saturday and Sunday in the Smackout access area, south of Highway 60 at Vixen Road.
|Ernest Jensen, 62, was discovered to be missing from his residence in the vicinity on Wednesday. A 911 call was made to the Newton County Sheriff's Department. The Pierce City Rural Fire Department, the closest firefighting agency with a satellite station at the Newton County line, was called in.|
According to David Jones, incident commander for the Pierce City Rural Fire Association, the firemen had no success finding Jensen so returned for an intense search of the immediate area on Friday. Still having no success, Jones said the firemen decided to launch an all-out search and call in other departments to help.
"It's not really our area," Jones said. "It needed to be done."
On Saturday, 50 volunteers were on the scene, including a number on horseback from the area Mennonite Church. Both Monett City and Rural Fire Departments joined in the search, as well as fire departments from Purdy, Stotts City, Sarcoxie, Granby and Stark City.
On Sunday, 33 National Guardsmen joined the search, along with 60 firemen and other volunteers. Newton County Search and Rescue and Four States Search and Rescue brought dogs to help in the search. Monett Police helped with dispatching and some volunteers. Help from area churches, including Sts. Peter and Paul in Pulaskifield, and the Red Cross provided support for the effort.
"We searched one square mile at least twice, then expanded to a second square mile," Jones said. "We were very organized and did what we could."
Jensen is described as six feet in height and 200 pounds. He was wearing blue jeans and possibly a dark flannel shirt or coat when he went out to the bathroom on Wednesday afternoon and did not return. It was unclear whether or not he was wearing shoes.
The volunteers completed their efforts Sunday night and withdrew from the scene.
"We're exhausted," Jones said. "We don't have the manpower to keep it up. Some dogs were coming in Monday to resume the search. We're encouraging all landowners in the vicinity to search their property."
Newton County Sheriff Ken Copeland said Jensen is not medically impaired, though he has symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome from his experience as a war veteran. Jansen has disappeared previously, hidden in the woods and returned when he was ready.
"There's every bit a possibility that he took a ride, and a chance that he may be exactly where he wants to be," Copeland said. "The Jensens live in a remote area that is way out. They don't want to be bothered. We hope he's alive and well and will come home when he is ready to come home.
"This is not a missing child where from minute one we'd still be looking," Copeland said. "It's not a manhunt for a criminal. We've entered him in the computer as a missing person. We've sent out mailers and pictures to area law enforcement. We've been in the process of contacting shelters in different cities in case he shows up. If he's contacted and says he doesn't want to go home, we won't make him. We certainly want to locate him and check on his well-being."
The situation has not been widely publicized as Copeland said the sight of media in the area may discourage Jensen from returning home. Copeland said his department has exhausted its search but will remain vigilant in case Jensen is located.