Three weeks ago on Friday 21 September Deputy Fire Chief, Alan Thomas, Paul Laban of Top Dog Security and a Special Constable together with Police dog Poppy responded to a report of a missing three year old boy. The boy named Ziggy went missing in the Hutts Gate area. Fears were heightened because Ziggy was autistic and was unlikely to respond to calls and shouts. After a 3 hour search the rescue team successfully located the boy toward Sane Valley down from the point of Longwood Clinic.
As recognition of this “excellent work” Chief of Police, Peter Coll presented the trio Chief of Police Commendations last Friday afternoon at the Fire Station, Ladder Hill witnessed by a small audience. “There was some exceptional work that was done on the day and I’d like to particularly pay tribute to Alan Thomas, Paul Laban and Police dog Poppy,” said Coll who proceeded to read out the citations. The three, commenced an emergency search over difficult terrain. “DFC Thomas was aware of the urgent need for the search based on the daylight hours fading and the prevailing circumstances made it clear that any delay could prove extremely serious for the child,” said Coll. “DFC Thomas showed outstanding commitment and tenacity in trying to locate the child.”
He continued, “Paul and Russell [Clingham] have had dogs for 2 ½ years now. I remember when they came there was a bit of anxiety amongst some of the people on the island who weren’t 100% sold on what the dogs could do. To me one of the big success stories is what happened two weeks ago. It shows exactly, that’s what the dogs are here for, that’s what they can do.” Poppy a German Shepherd sat patiently with handler Paul as Coll continued. “Poppy commenced a second tracker attempt with one of the child’s shoes for the dog to take the scent. After approximately 20 yards the dog then air scented and changed direction of the track,” stated Coll. “The dog without any hesitation or deterring from the main course led the handler and rescue team to near the bottom of the valley and located the child. The child was cold and started to suffer from the effects of hyperthermia. When Police dog Poppy stopped it was approximately two feet away from the child.” Coll congratulated the trio saying, “This was an extraordinary and in my opinion, lifesaving achievement.”
The Sentinel spoke to Alan and Paul about the rescue. “We’re work with Fire & Rescue for close on 2 ½ years and we’ve done about 5-6 scenarios,” said Paul. “I must say the other two dogs that we’ve got Tommy and Ellie, all three dogs whichever who would have been out at the time all three could do the same work.” This was the first time for the dogs to be used in a live search case. “It must give the people of St Helena a lot of heart knowing that these dogs whichever one gets the shout, the outcome should definitely be the same as what happened with Poppy and Ziggy, it was superb,” remarked Paul.
“What I was impressed with was she was literally dragging Paul down the hill and so far down she barked,” said Alan. “I thought she was barking at the cattle but to find no cattle was actually down there. It was maybe her indication that she was nearing Ziggy.” Was she instrumental in the search? “Exactly, on the day if it hadn’t have been for Poppy on the day who knows as she led us directly to Ziggy.”