SDMRT 2019-19 Valley Center

SDMRT Operations Report 2019-19

Full Callout – Missing Person, Valley Center, CA

Diana Dwyer 23-24 October 2019

SDMRT Responders Operational Period 1: Alicia Trigeiro, Nick McGuinness, Erin Rist, Kelly Sloan, and Richard Yocum

SDMRT Responders Operational Period 2: John Hatala, Rob Bair, Michael Winter, Dennis Peck, Richard Yocum, and Lee Tomatsu (en route)

SDMRT ITC: Dennis Peck

Other Responding Organizations: SDSD SAR and Sheriffs

Short Summary:

  • Type of callout: Full
  • In-county or if mutual aid: In-county
  • Type of search: Search for missing person
  • Environment: Rural
  • Location:
    • PLS at Lilac Oaks Campground, 30821 Lilac Road, Valley Center, CA 92082
    • CP for Ops Period 1 at the Lilac School, 30109 Lilac Road, Valley Center, CA 2082 for Ops Period 1, 11S MS 93613 79838
    • CP for Ops Period 2 at Valley Center Community Center, 28246 Lilac Road, Valley Center.
    • Subject located and identity confirmed at approx. 0800 on 10/24/19 at 12254 Calle De Ensueno, Valley Center, by residents of that house, approx. 1.5 mi from PLS.
  • Operational period:
    • Earliest time of activity: Callout request at 1846 hours on 10/23/19 for operational period beginning immediately.
    • Search ended on 10/24/19, when subject located, with 10-22 issued at 0807 hours.
  • Information about the subject:
    • Number/names of subjects: 1 subject, Diana Dwyer
    • Age/Gender: 51-year-old woman o Level of fitness and preparedness: Reported to have a “broken back” and able to walk less than 1 city block o Mental status: Subject diagnosed bipolar disorder, and doesn’t take her medication (Seroquel). Also, she may be depressed.
    • Injuries, if applicable: No acute reported prior to going missing. Page 2 of 5 6 November 2019 o How were they found : Subject was identified by a residence of a private house at 12254 Calle De Ensueno, Valley Center, CA.
  • Any rescuers injured: None known
  • Aircraft used: ASTREA helicopter doing overheard PA, SDSAR UAV with searchlights

Descriptive Report

Operational Period 1, 10/23/19: 51-year-old woman Diane Dwyer from Idaho was staying at Lilac Oaks Campground since 10/5/19 (18 days) with her husband and 2 grandchildren while on their way to LA (where their son lives) missing from their camper trailer between 0300 and 1030 on 10/23/19 according to her husband. Reportedly wearing brown sweater, blue jeans, and pink tennis shoes. 5’8" and 220 pounds. Diagnosis of bipolar disorder but doesn’t take her prescription medication (Seroquel). Has a habit of walking off when she gets upset but later returns on her own. Husband was with her at 2130 10/22/19 before going to bed. Spotty video coverage of campground from 0300 to 1500 hours including their Site 37 was reviewed by Sheriffs and showed silhouettes of persons in their camping trailer at 0300. When husband awoke at 1030 he found her missing and began to search for her. At 1300 hours he called their son. His permit was expiring so he moved his trailer from the campground to the intersection of Lilac and West Lilac Roads. Diana was reported to have a back injury that prevents her from walking more than 1 city block. She had expressed to her husband that she did not feel safe in the campground. The family had a Facebook video chat at 2130 on 10/22/19 and felt that she was paranoid about other people staying in the campground. She was also depressed because they would be returning their grandchildren who had been staying with them to their parents. Her phone and purses were found in the trailer and she is believed to be without phone, cash, or credit card, and not familiar with this area. SD Sheriff interviewed the husband and checked the area hospitals and jail. ASTREA searched all 3 lakes in the campground vicinity and the interconnecting trails. Deputies visited all campsites and interviewed persons in the campground. No clues were found and SAR was activated, with callout at 1846. It was later related that at 0700 there was a possible sighting by a worker on a farm north of the campground (31120 Manzanita Crest Road), a woman wandering through a brushy field and disappearing behind a tree. ASTREA searched that area as did a re-assigned ground Team 11. A total of 16 teams were deployed in the first ops period, including 3 trailing dog teams and 1 or 2 area dog teams. One trailing dog seemed to track northwest while the other seemed to track northeast. The newly-acquired UAV was used to search the area, using dual searchlights (the FLIR needing issues to be remedied before fully operational).

Operational Period 2, 10/24/19 at 0700: For the 2 nd ops period, the CP was moved to about 7 miles from the PLS, to Valley Center Community Center, 28246 Lilac Road, Valley Center, CA. The priority assignments for the 2 nd ops period were to be focused on the brushy field northwest of the campground because of the 0700 possible sighting, beginning with an area dog (if available) and then followed by ground teams. Also, a trailing dog team would resume tracking northeasterly where a dog had discontinued near the camp amphitheater because of safety concerns in the dark. Before any teams were deployed, deputies received a radio call at 0735 of a woman matching the description. The initial report matched the location to the farm at 31120 Manzanita Crest Rd, but this was incorrect. A resident of 12254 Calle De Ensueno in Valley Center heard a person crying outside their home and discovered an older woman on their property. The resident was aware of the missing person search from the flyers, social media, and Page 3 of 5 6 November 2019 the news. (The Valley Center newspaper Facebook page reported that the missing subject was standing at their bedroom window saying she needed help and water. The residents came out of the house and asked her what her name was and the subject identified herself as Diana Dwyer.) The resident immediately called Sheriff’s Dispatch. The deputies arrived on scene shortly and confirmed the located person as Diana Dwyer. Diana had sustained minor injuries including a 3” laceration on her left foot and several abrasions on her body. She had walked barefoot and claimed to have fallen down a slope. She was confused and had several confusing stories as to why she left. The most common story was that she wanted to hike 25 miles to see if she could do it. The Fire Department evaluated Diana and she was transported to Palomar Hospital for her injuries. Diana was located 1.5 miles away from her PLS at Lilac Oaks Campground, not far from the 1st ops period CP location. The subject’s scent articles (2 shoes and 1 shirt) were given to Sargent George for return to subject at hospital, and released to her husband, Steve. 10-22 was issued at 0807.

After Search Concluded: After SAR was deactivated, it was confirmed by using a photo of Diana in a gurney on the way to the hospital that she had in fact been encountered by a ground team the previous evening during Ops Period 1 but not identified as the missing subject. An area dog team of 4 SAR personnel was assigned to search the campground and some surrounding areas. While searching the campground this team came in contact with two long-term campground "residents" who reported that they had earlier came across a woman in the grass who might fit the description. The team asked to be taken to where the woman was found, and one of the residents complied and took them to her. When initially approached by the team, the woman was vocally annoyed by the team’s bright lights and seemed to not want to be bothered. After the headlights were diverted, she became more cooperative. During the conversation she repeatedly mentioned her “husband” and indicated that he was in their trailer, motioning behind her. The campground resident confirmed that there was in fact a trailer in that direction in the woods, and that the area in general was frequented by meth users. She suggested the SAR team go to her trailer, and then that she take the SAR team there. The team did not feel that it was safe to do so (and did not request any LE support). The team consensus was that she fit the height and weight description of Diana Dwyer, but she did not fit the clothing description and had the "wrong color hair." And she gave the name Joyce Williams. There was a consensus that something was "off" about her. The team lead then had a cell phone conversation with the Plans Chief at the CP. This conversion concluded that she was not the missing person based on the certainty of the field team assessment. The team did not consider taking a photo of the subject, partly because she seems annoyed by their lights and questioning. The phone conversation was not discussed at that time with any other CP staff or Fred Duey. The team moved on after that, and had little to no further discussion about this person. The team was debriefed as a whole (all 4 members, not just the team leader) by the Operations Chief because the Plans Chief was preoccupied, but very little was mentioned or discussed about "Joyce Williams" during that debrief, and Plans and Ops did not confer later about this debrief. When Fred Duey sent team members a photo of Diana lying on the gurney she was identified as the “Joyce Williams” the team had encountered. In retrospect, it was noted that the field teams were not adequately briefed that the missing person had untreated bipolar disorder and could be delusional. Page 4 of 5 6 November 2019 Photo of Diana Dwyer used for flyer, the most recent photo available, found on Facebook Photo of Diana Dwyer shortly after having been located Map of PLS/LKP in campground, possible sighting on farm at 0700, CP location for 1st ops period, and where subject was located on Calle de Enseuno. Page 5 of 5 6 November 2019

Lessons learned/ suggestions for future operations:

  1. Field teams should be adequately briefed, including the mental/psychological status of the missing subject. For disorders such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, dementia, autism, etc. the team should be made aware of what to expect if they encounter the subject. Various medically trained SAR personnel are available to serve as resources on such medical topics.
  2. If new, pertinent subject profile information is obtained after some field teams are deployed, radio comms can be used to update all teams on that new information.
  3. SAR members should be re-trained that clothing descriptions may be helpful “clues,” but are often wrong, and should never discount the possibility of it being the missing subject. (Similarly unreliable, it was reported that Diana could only walk 1 city block, yet she travelled at least 1.5 miles.) Use extreme caution in using such information to eliminate possible subject sightings.
  4. Potential sightings must be evaluated in real time. Any encounter that has a possibility of being the subject must be reported to the CP immediately, while the field team is still onscene (unless there is an immediate safety concern causing a need to exit the scene).
  5. If the field team believes it is not able to adequately complete its assignment because of a safety concern, that should be conveyed to the CP and there should be a request for LE support, without hesitation. When in doubt, request that support. Such a request is most appropriately made using the main radio channel.
  6. Photo verification (preferably in real-time) is the best way to confirm/eliminate possible subject, and should be done for documentation purposes regardless. Various techniques might be employed for photographing a subject not fully cooperating, such as having another team member distract the subject.
  7. This possible sighting was not adequately documented. Much more information should have been included in the Debrief Form, and/or a Clue Report created. A Clue Report should be created for sightings/potential encounters to insure accurate documentation and appropriate handling/review.
  8. A Clue Log (e.g., Form SAR 134) should be used routinely for all clues, with every search.
  9. There was no mention of the Joyce Williams sighting in the handoff to the Ops Period 2 CP staff. There should be a better overhead handoff between operational periods, which should ideally include a map of the previously areas searched with annotations, the cumulative clue log, and suggestions for priority team assignments for the next ops period.
  10. Remember the adage “if it’s not documented, it didn’t happen.”
  11. Only Plans should be debriefing field teams, and also assure that all information is adequately conveyed in the debrief form and that debrief forms are signed. If the Plans Chief is unable to do a debrief, he/she should delegate to another qualified individual, then review the report with the debriefer as soon as possible afterwards, and definitely before the next planning cycle.
  12. Now that SDSAR has a new UAV, with FLIR and searchlights, the CP should learn where to best utilize this asset to complement other search resources.