An extensive ground and air search for more than six hours over a wide area of southeast Bend ended in success early Sunday when an 86-year-old, nearly deaf man suffering from Alzheimer’s was found lying by a large juniper tree along SE 27th Street, Deschutes County sheriff’s deputies said.
Bend police called in Deschutes County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue and used the “reverse 911” emergency recording system to contact residents to help look for Rene George Verbrugge, who was not home when his wife returned to their home on Darla Place, east of 27th street, around 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
Shortly after 3:30 a.m., with temperatures having fallen to around 27 degrees, search teams found Verbrugge lying in a shallow depression, near or under a large juniper on the east side of 27th Street, between Darnel Avenue and Chilliwack Way, roughly 1,000 feet northwest of the couple’s home, officials said.
State Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, said Sunday the Silver Alert bill he's introducing in the upcoming legislative session would better assist rescue teams trying to locate vulnerable adults who tend to wander.
"If they wander and get lost, we want to be able to recover them as quickly and safely as possible and get them back to their loved ones," Knopp said.
"It really is a very terrifying situation, when you realize that your parent isn't where they're supposed to be," Knopp added, speaking from personal experience in his family. "We need to make sure we have written plans in place in every jurisdiction in the state, and that we coordinate. And that's the key to the bill."
Verbrugge was given first aid at the scene, then taken to St. Charles-Bend and reunited with his family, said sheriff’s Lt. Scott Shelton, Search and Rescue coordinator. He was admitted to the hospital, where he was listed in fair condition Sunday morning, a nursing supervisor said.
Bend police had conducted an initial search but could not find Verbrugge, then called in the county’s SAR volunteers around 9:30 p.m., Shelton said.
An extensive ground and air search began around 11 p.m. involving 18 SAR volunteers, three sheriff’s deputies, police officers, a detective, a chaplain and an AirLink helicopter, Shelton said. Two K-9 search teams also were deployed, one from Bend police and another affiliated with the SAR organization, he added.
Deputies and officers went house to house in the immediate area, checking fenced yards and areas that could not be seen from the street, while SAR volunteer teams did ground and vehicle searches up to several miles from the man’s home.
“Based upon information from the family” – including that he does not drive – “it was believed that Mr. Verbrugge would most likely not have traveled very far from the immediate area,” Shelton said in a news release.
At the time he was found, Verbrugge was wearing a dark coat and dark sweat pants, different attire than what he had last been seen in, Shelton said.
Shelton said the sheriff’s office and Bend police “would like to thank all the area residents that were contacted during the course of this search for their help and patience.”
Bend police Sgt. Dan Ritchie had said Verbrugge was missing when his wife returned Saturday night to their home at 61721 Darla Place, in a neighborhood just east of SE 27th Street, between Bear Creek and Reed Market roads. He was believed to have left the home between 3:20 and 8:30 p.m.
Verbrugge last was seen wearing a red zip-up sweatshirt and silver velour sweatpants.
He doesn't drive, has a 90 percent hearing loss and also has heart problems and high blood pressure, Ritchie said.