Lee Co. Sheriff thanks search volunteers - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Lee Co. Sheriff thanks search volunteers

LEE CO., GA (WALB) -

Thermal Technology helped find a missing Lee County boy Thursday night.

A 12-year-old autistic Lee County boy is home safe Friday, thanks to thermal imaging technology used on Georgia State Patrol helicopters.

The Forward Looking Infared, or FLIR system, was able to locate Jacob Ranew Thursday night in dense woods about one quarter mile from his home near Creekside Drive.

A massive search was underway Thursday night for 12-year-old Jacob Ranew, who left his home on Leighton Drive about 5:30 p.m.  The thermal imaging technology was what they needed to locate him about 5 hours later. 

More than 100 people joined the search in South Lee County for 12-year-old Jacob Ranew.

"He just went out and left his home upset a little bit. And he found him a spot to sit down I guess," said Sheriff Reggie Rachals, Lee County.

About 9:45 p.m. Georgia State Patrol Sgt. Jeff Rhodes flew their Bell helicopter from the Reidsville Hangar, along with Department of Natural Resources Tactical Flight Officer Joe Hilton joining the search using FLIR thermal imaging technology. It picks up heat from your body and shows an image on a screen. 

The other searchers were called out of the woods, so the boy could be pin-pointed about 10:30 p.m.

"The helicopter led them in to where he was at.  They were picking up his image and they located him, asleep," said Rachals.

Ranew apparently slept through most of the searchers calling for him. The thermal imaging was needed to bring a happy ending.

"He was not hurt. He was just thirsty and hungry. Once we got him to the command post and gave him some water, and some pizza. And he had a doughnut that was brought to the site," said Rachals.

We're told that Jacob was back in school Friday.

I talked with Georgia State Patrol aviation officials Friday afternoon.They said it's very gratifying to find Ranew in this search. 

They say they don't always have such happy endings, so this one during the holidays felt good.

Sheriff Rachals wanted to thank the more than 100 volunteers who joined in the search Thursday night. 

He said people in the community using Facebook helped spread information correctly, and that was an aid in the search.

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