Project Lifesaver assists is rescue of missing Alzheimer’s person

On April 10, 2018, the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office responded to the report of a critically missing person who suffers from Alzheimer’s. Deputies from the Patrol Division arrived on scene, gathered information, and immediately initiated a search for Thomas Franklin Clarke.

The Sheriff’s Office Special Operations Division responded with personnel on all-terrain vehicles, (ATVs), and the Criminal Investigations Division assisted with the use of drones to broaden the search area. Numerous other agencies responded and participated in the search to include Maryland State Police Trooper 7, Southern Maryland Search and Rescue who provided personnel and K-9’s, Ridge Volunteer Rescue Squad and Fire Department, Bay District Volunteer Fire Department CO3, Leonardtown Volunteer Fire Department, and the Naval District Fire Department from Webster Field. Clarke was ultimately discovered in a wooded area, several hours later, not visible from the roadway, submerged in a marsh up to his chest, by Sheriff’s Office personnel on ATV’s.

Cpl. Connelly is pictured on the left; Sgt. Young is pictured on the right

Sergeant Harold Young and Corporal Brian Connelly immediately entered the marsh to rescue Clarke however the conditions of the marsh made extracting him difficult. With assistance from the fire department, Sgt. Young and Cpl. Connelly were able to place Clarke into a Stokes Basket/Stretcher and extract him from the marsh. Clarke was alert but unable to communicate basic information; he was subsequently transported to a medical facility for evaluation. The Sheriff’s Office wishes to thank all the agencies involved in this search/rescue that enabled us to have a successful conclusion instead of a tragedy.

The St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office participates in a program called Project Lifesaver. Project Lifesaver is a radio transmission system designed to assist law enforcement in locating lost or missing persons who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, autism, or other condition that may impair communication with others. The Sheriff’s Office has several officers trained in the use and application of the radio transmission equipment. Citizens enrolled in Project Lifesaver wear a small watch size transmitter on their wrist or ankle that emits a tracking signal.

If a member of the program goes missing this transmitter will provide law enforcement the location of the missing person; recovery time is typically under thirty minutes. When a family member or loved one is missing, time is of the essence.

The Sheriff’s Office encourages anyone who has a friend or family member diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, autism, or any condition where the person is unable to communicate, or provide basic information on address or identity to please contact Corporal William Rishel at (301) 475- 4200 extension *8097, or by email at for further information on Project Lifesaver.

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