Kara Gallaway had no idea what all the fuss was about, but she sure was enjoying the attention.
As the 18-month old toddler smiled and laughed, police officers, sheriff’s deputies and several dogs milled around her front yard, all relieved that an hour-long search for the missing child had ended with her safely home — in bed.
The Graham Police Department received an emergency call at 8:10 p.m. about a missing child.
The caller said the home has been thoroughly searched, but the 18-month-old girl was not located.
As is typical in any missing person case, the home was repeatedly searched — by the family, by police and by personnel from Graham/Young County Ambulance.
“They found her in the bed,” Widner said. “We’re not sure whether she was in there the whole time or she snuck back in. We searched the house three times. An officer had even lifted the mattress to look for her, and she didn’t roll out of the bed.”
After more than an hour of searching, especially with light quickly fading, Widner said everyone involved was just pleased Kara was safe. Whether or not she was actually lost is less important than the fact she was home safe with her family.
The event also turned into a good training opportunity for local emergency responders, Widner said.
“We really had a good response,” he said. “Police, fire and ambulance were on the scene at around the same time. After searching the house three times, we called everyone in. The sheriff’s department came in, and there were plenty of neighbors. We almost had more people than we could handle.”
Once the search parties reached the area, they began a house-by-house and eventually block-by-block search.
“We had already extended the search to a six-block area in every direction,” Widner said.
He said that as searchers moved further away from the house, Kara may have been able to sneak back inside.
Bryan Cassaday with the sheriff’s office used his drug dog, Mina, to track the child. Cassaday said his dog tracked the girl to one neighbor’s house, back home and then followed a scent three homes away.
At that point, the scent circled back around and began heading home.
Cassaday also called in a rescue dog from the Young County Sheriff’s Posse, and that dog followed almost the same path.
While the dogs indicated the child had wandered off a little, Cassaday said there was no way to be certain when that happened.
With nightfall falling, Widner said rescuers were prepared to search through the night if necessary.
With the search dogs, thermal imaging equipment from Graham Fire Rescue and night vision equipment, the search would have continued through the night if needed.
Widner said that willing attitude is what he has come to expect in Graham.
“The thing that impressed me most was the interdepartmental cooperation,” he said. “It was the best response we’ve ever had. Whether she ever left the residence, we don’t know. But we’re just happy she’s found.”