Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Jacob honors his heroes

I had the honor today of meeting 17-year-old Jacob Fischer. After surviving 32 hours in a wrecked car before anyone found him, it was clear that Jacob is a fighter. He and his family came to Police Headquarters today to present Certificates of Commendation to the officers who found him and helped save his life. It was a very touching moment when Jacob got to honor his heroes. Jacob also got to meet all the dispatchers who were on duty when he went missing and thank them for their work. He was a very grateful and eloquent young man, and I wish him a speedy recovery. Here’s the story of how our officers rescued him:

Jacob never showed up to meet his friends for a hunting outing on the foggy morning of Nov. 1, 2008. When he still hadn’t turned up that evening, his parents were frantic and called the police department in the city Jacob was last seen. A dispatcher there said they typically wait 24 hours before filing a missing person report for adults 17 and older. Frustrated, Jacob’s dad called a KCPD officer he knew, Officer Gale Hall. It was 12:15 a.m. Nov. 2.

Officer Hall told them to be persistent with the other police department. Jacob’s friends quickly gathered and formed search parties. They drove all the routes where they thought Jacob could have gone and checked hospitals and police stations. Officer Hall called KCPD dispatchers and asked them to repeatedly broadcast information about Jacob and his car so officers all over the city would be on the look-out for it. Jacob’s friends searched into the night and unknowingly drove past Jacob several times. His car was wrecked 15 feet off the roadway on Noland Road, down a hill and out of sight. He was trapped inside.

More than 24 hours after Jacob had been missing, Major Bob Kuehl joined the search. His son knew friends of Jacob’s, and they had asked him to get involved, even though as commander of the Logistical Support Division – which includes the Communications and Radio Maintenance units - he wasn’t normally involved in missing persons investigations. Major Kuehl arranged with KCPD dispatchers to contact Jacob’s cell phone company and learned his phone went “off the network” at 6:14 a.m. Nov. 1. That most likely meant Jacob didn’t make it far from home. Major Kuehl called the KCPD Helicopter Unit and asked them to fly from Raytown to Interstate 70 and Lee’s Summit Road, paying particular attention to windy sections of Noland Road near 40 Highway.

The Helicopter officers quickly spotted a car in a ditch along Noland Road, less than a mile from where Jacob lived. Major Kuehl was nearby. He requested an ambulance and the fire department, and then helicopter officers guided him as he climbed down the embankment to get to the wrecked car. Major Kuehl looked into the car and saw Jacob. He was alive, but severely injured and barely conscious. He had been trapped in the wreckage for 32 hours. Firefighters had to cut off the roof of Jacob’s car to get him out, and he was transported to a hospital. He is now undergoing rehabilitation.

Jacob’s parents, Scott and Stephanie Fischer, said in a letter to me that Jacob would not be alive today were it not for Officer Hall and Major Kuehl. They said, “All of us will be eternally grateful to both men. The term ‘hero’ is often over-used, but in this case, Major Kuehl and Officer Hall are truly HEROES.’”

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