Pilot uses personal helicopter to find missing child

Pilot uses personal helicopter to find missing child
Helicopter pilot finds missing child from Buffalo Springs Lake boat crash (Source: KCBD)
Helicopter pilot finds missing child from Buffalo Springs Lake boat crash (Source: KCBD)

BUFFALO SPRINGS LAKE, TX (KCBD) - John Kimmel was flying in his personal helicopter Monday morning when he noticed emergency vehicles and search boats at Buffalo Springs Lake.

He immediately decided to step in and help.

"I was a law enforcement pilot so I've done lots and lots of search and recoveries, search and rescues, so I just kind of went down there and started looking," Kimmel said.

After talking with the Buffalo Springs Police Chief and pinpointing the accident site, they developed a plan and started searching.

"We just went from the accident, basically set up a grid and flew a grid pattern over the lake in the direction of the current, just hoping we could find something. I did know that we were searching for a 1-year-old child and that he had come out of his life jacket, so we knew at that point we were searching for a drowning victim," Kimmel said.

A difficult search from the water and the air because a child is so small.

Kimmel had a Buffalo Springs Police Officer and a flight medic searching with him.

"Everything is much smaller from the air so a child is going to be very small. I told the guys in the helicopter with me what we're looking for is a child's doll. From up here it's going to look like a toy, like a doll," Kimmel said.

"We had flown the lake already that morning and had not found anything. We had landed in the parking lot to tell law enforcement agents on the ground, tell them that we were going to go get some more fuel and take a little break then we would come back and try it again. We were on the ground 10 to maybe 15 minutes tops and it was just after we lifted off and headed back to the lake, moments after we lifted off, that I saw the baby right in the area that we had been searching," Kimmel said.

Kimmel says he is glad he could help but it was an emotional challenge.

"Once you find the child it becomes, it's no longer a target, now it's a person and it's a baby and it is a very difficult thing," Kimmel said.

Officials say they do not think alcohol was a factor in the crash but it is still under investigation.

A fund has been set up for the family of the child at any Centennial Bank location.

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