Sidmouth air search alert pair found at home

PUBLISHED: 15:24 06 June 2009 | UPDATED: 09:20 18 June 2010

A MASSIVE search involving a police helicopter in Sidmouth was branded as a waste of resources after the missing people turned up hours later oblivious to the chaos they had caused. A 59-year-old man and a wheelchair bound woman in her 70s were reported m

A MASSIVE search involving a police helicopter in Sidmouth was branded as a waste of resources after the missing people turned up hours later oblivious to the chaos they had caused.

A 59-year-old man and a wheelchair bound woman in her 70s were reported missing on Tuesday at around 4.40pm.

The pair had travelled from Weston Super-Mare to the town with an organised Salvation Army coach trip but, after splitting from the group to go for a walk, they failed to return to the designated meeting point.

After frantically searching the town for an hour and a half the co-ordinator of the trip reported them as missing- leading to a full scale search operation.

Officers from Sidmouth, Exmouth and Honiton Police took part in the search and Avon and Somerset Police made regular checks at the pair's home.

At 7pm police upgraded the missing person classification to high risk and more officers were drafted in from other areas.

The Coastguard was on stand-by and a police helicopter was scrambled to search the area but found nothing.

The major operation even involved seafront pub staff who used their two-way radio system to communicate with police.

The search was finally called off at 11pm, seven hours after the pair went missing, when it was confirmed they had turned up at home.

The incident has been labelled a "pointless exercise" by police, who are pleading with members of the public to think twice before wandering off.

Sergeant Andy Turner, of Sidmouth Police, said: "Please if you're going out and about and you get separated from your group let someone know you are alright.

"Most East Devon and specialist resources were tied up in what has turned out to be a pointless exercise."

However Sergeant Turner said he was more concerned with taking resources away from people who are in real danger.

He added: "At the time other people could have been in serious trouble and in need of our help."

A police spokesman said the cost of the search was unknown but she confirmed the operating cost of the force helicopter alone is £500 an hour.


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