Hurricane evacuee found after wandering from Batesburg care center

Batesburg-Leesville police and fire personnel spring into action at a command post set up Friday to orchestrate the search for a hurricane evacuee from North Charleston who walked away from Generations. (Staff photo by Tony Baughman)



A 67-year-old hurricane evacuee from North Charleston wandered away from Generations of Batesburg mid-afternoon Friday, prompting a massive search-and-rescue mission.

Local fire and police review a map of their search areas before fanning out.

The man, whose name The Twin-City News chooses not to publish out of an abundance of compassion, was missing for almost four hours before being located just before 7 p.m. about 2.5 miles from the senior care center. He was spotted by an off-duty first responder who alerted the search team to someone matching the missing man’s description walking through a field on Bethlehem Church Road, just off Willis Street. Emergency medical personnel responded and provided care to the individual, who reportedly suffers with dementia but is in otherwise good health.

“Having all these people working together, coordinating, you can get a good turn-out — which this is. When you find a missing person still alive, still in good shape, that’s a good day,” said Batesburg-Leesville Police Chief Wallace Oswald, who was at the command post set up in the parking lot behind Pizza Hut, across from Generations, when the good news came across the radio.

Personnel from the Batesburg-Leesville Police and Fire Departments, the Lexington County Sheriff’s Office, Lexington County Emergency Medical Services, Lexington County Fire Service, and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) participated in the search.

The neighborhoods surrounding Generations were divided into quadrants, and at least four search teams fanned out. Law enforcement and firefighters scoured the area on foot and in emergency vehicles. From the air, the Batesburg-Leesville Police Department drone and a SLED helicopter conducted a birds-eye search.

Shoe-leather, door-to-door investigation revealed that around 2:45 p.m., the missing man apparently had walked into the Dollar General store on Willis Street and purchased Vitamin Water and paper towels before walking on down the road. Depending on the man’s state of mental clarity, police may question him to try and ascertain whether he left Generations in an attempt to return to his home in the Lowcountry.

“I’m sure he was seeing the news about what’s going on in Charleston, and I think he was trying to get home,” Chief Oswald said. “As much as we can talk to him we will, but the main thing we do now is make sure he’s okay, and then we’re going to have a talk with the staff at Generations to prevent this from happening again.”

The missing man was among more than 60 seniors who were sheltered at Generations in Batesburg-Leesville after they were evacuated from North Charleston with the approach of Hurricane Dorian.

Staff report by Tony Baughman / Posted September 6, 2019