Lifestyle & Human Interest

Elderly Man Goes Missing from Hospital on Freezing Night: One Officer's Hunch 'Saved His Life'


On Dec. 1, 2021, an elderly gentleman receiving care for an infection at the Chesterfield Royal Hospital in Calow, England, got up and exited the hospital shortly before midnight, and no one saw him leave.

It was around 11:10 p.m. when the confused man broke out, and about 20 minutes later, when the hospital realized what had happened, police were called.

Time was of the essence, as the temperature was around 35 degrees Fahrenheit, with a windchill of 28 degrees, and the missing man had only his pants, sweater and a light jacket on.

At some point after he disappeared, a family member said they got a call from him, saying he was at a bus stop in Brimington, which was miles away.

Police rushed to the location, but after a thorough search, they found no sign of the poor man.

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They continued their search around the hospital and used a drone to look for a heat signature, but nothing came up.

They believed the man must be somewhere north of the hospital, but time was running out.

Six hours into the ordeal, the National Police Air Service was called to assist the search by helicopter — but before they arrived, the officer flying the drone decided to act on a hunch, using the last little bit of battery the drone had.

Instead of looking north, Sergeant Kev Harrell with the Derbyshire Constabulary guided the drone south.

“My heart skipped a beat when I located a heat source in a field — a heat source of a person — in a ditch behind some houses,” Harrell said, according to a Facebook post by the Derbyshire Constabulary.

“I guided local officers in with the aid of the floodlight on the drone and it was great news. The heat source was the missing man we had been looking for.

“He was found, freezing cold and clearly unwell at 5.30am on 2 December, approximately six hours after he had walked out of the hospital. Medical staff later confirmed that if he had not been found at that time, he would have likely died from hypothermia.

“It was a great effort from all involved and just goes to show the importance of having a drone readily available for deployment, and the fact that it saves lives.”

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The elderly man recovered from both his outing and his infection and is now back home — a fact that his family is very grateful for.

“That night, officers did a brilliant job, working tirelessly to find my dad and ensure that he was safe,” the man’s daughter said, according to the Facebook post.

“People need to know about this, as without the police and their ability to access a drone the outcome could have been so different. Offering my gratitude and sharing this story is the least I can do after you have saved his life, thank you so much.”

It wasn’t the first time these officers had pulled off a miracle: One commenter chimed in to thank them for their help the previous year.

“On 25.01.21 (a year coming up) my precious husband, who has dementia, went missing in the Hope valley,” Sandra Pinz wrote on the Derbyshire Constabulary’s Facebook post.

“Sleet, freezing temps. He’d fallen in a ditch. If it wasn’t for the incredible work of Derbyshire Constabulary, he would have died. I will NEVER forget their help.”

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