Chocowinity SAR aids in successful search for missing teen

Published 12:43 pm Monday, June 8, 2020

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BEAR GRASS — A missing teen in the Bear Grass area was found safe on Sunday after the Martin County Sheriff’s Office called on search and rescue resources from throughout the region to help find her. Beaufort County Emergency Services and Chocowinity Search and Rescue were among those who assisted.

According to information shared by the MCSO, Hannah Grace Willoughby, 15, went missing at around 3:30 p.m. Saturday after being seen in the area of Henry Mizelle Road in Bear Grass. MCSO Chief Deputy Drew Robinson said she was located the next day walking along Price Road, southwest of Williamston.

“It very quickly went from a runaway to a missing person,” Robinson said. “We were very concerned about her welfare. ”

After an initial search of the area where Willoughby was last seen, Robinson said that concern grew as time went on, prompting his agency to bring in more resources to search for the missing teen. One of those was Chocowinity Search and Rescue.

According to Chocowinity SAR team member Joy McRoy, the local team joined the search at around 7:30 a.m. Sunday, bringing 10 members and five K9 units to assist. McRoy said the team stayed at the scene until Willoughby was found Sunday afternoon.

Chocowinity SAR, which is made up of members from both the Chocowinity Volunteer Fire Department and Chocowinity EMS, is Beaufort County’s only search and rescue team. Chocowinity Fire and EMS is a hub for specialized rescue training in the region, and its SAR team has assisted with numerous search and rescue missions both locally and throughout the state.

“It’s nice to have something right here in the county where if the Sheriff’s Office calls, we can jump on the train and have someone there to assist on it and maybe have a good chance of finding someone sooner, rather than having to wait for another search team,” said Chocowinity Volunteer Fire Chief Tommy Pendley.

Also participating in the search were the Lenoir County Sheriff’s Office, Pamlico County Search and Rescue, Gates County Search and Rescue, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, the North Carolina SBI, Beaufort County Emergency Services, Bertie County Emergency Management and Bear Grass Fire and Rescue.

“We want to express our thanks to all the agencies that provided assistance and all the volunteers in the neighborhood who came out and supported us through searching the roads and providing donations of food and water,” Robinson said.