ST. GEORGE – An elderly man who was described as having dementia went missing in St. George Friday night and was found safe thanks to an alert citizen.
Around 8:30 p.m., it was reperted to police that 85-year-old year old Francisco Ramirez had been missing since 5:30 p.m. after not returning from a walk, St. George Police Capt. Kyle Whitehead said. Police were also told Ramirez had dementia.
Ramirez’s family is visiting from Mexico and currently staying in Washington City, Whitehead said. During the evenings they go to Irmita’s to visit with acquaintances while Ramirez takes a short walk and returns soon after.
“Tonight he left and didn’t come back and after about three hours we received a report he was missing,” Whitehead said.
Police units began to search the area around Irmita’s and down 700 South.
Within the hour an incident command post was established at Irmita’s to help coordinate the search. Additional officers, members of the St. George Fire Department, and volunteers with the Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team began to gather at the restaurant as a staging area shortly after 9 p.m.
A request to put out a automated community notice out to residents in areas Ramirez could be was issued and a press release was in the works when the St. George Communications Center alerted Whitehead that a passerby found a man on Riverside Drive who matched Ramirez’s description.
“We had a citizen call in and said there was an old gentleman matching his description over in the area of 2990 E. Riverside Drive,” Whitehead said.
The man was found safe and was positively identified as Ramirez, he said. The search was subsequently called off.
“Thank goodness we found him quick,” Whitehead said.
Though the night ended on a positive note, Whitehead said, it serves as an example of why the Project Lifesaver program comes in handy for such situations. Project Lifesaver is an international organization that supplies to special needs people ankle and wrist bracelets with built-in transmitters; the transmitters alert police to the special needs person’s location if they go missing.
The St. George Police Department announced in December it had bought 10 Project Lifesaver transmitter-bracelets thanks to a grantfrom Autism Speaks.
It costs $200 to provide one tracking device for a child with autism or Down syndrome, according to an announcement posted by the Southern Utah Autism Support Group to St. George News in October. The monthly fee per individual on the program is $25 for battery and band maintenance.
Those interested in donating to the program can contribute money at the St. George Police Department, 265 N. 200 East in St. George, or under the name “Project Lifesaver” at the City of St. George finance counter, 175 E. 200 N.
Anyone with questions about the Project Lifesaver program or wishing to enroll a loved one may call St. George Police Officer Derek Lewis at 435-627-4358.
“We encourage people to contact the police department and get information on (Project Lifesaver),” Whitehead said.
St. George News Assistant Editor Cami Jim contributed to this article.
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