When 2 1/2-year-old Amber Smith disappeared on Oct. 8 from her Barton Township home, Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers responded to a request for help from the Newaygo County Sheriff’s Department to search for the toddler in the heavily wooded area around her home.
Conservation officer Jeff Ginn, working as part of the search and rescue team, located the girl today at about 1:40 p.m. in a wooded area approximately a mile and three-quarters from her home – highlighting once again the special skills that conservation officers can bring to these types of situations.
“Our officers go through extensive training to locate lost persons in the woods, and they are experts in the areas where they work, knowing the terrain better than anyone,” said DNR Law Enforcement Division Chief Gary Hagler. “In this case, a team of our officers helped search overnight and into the morning for this missing little girl, and we were successful in locating her alive, with just some minor cuts and bruises.”
DNR officers responded to the request for help to locate Amber, and organized in search parties with Michigan State Police, Newaygo County Sheriff’s Department deputies and other law enforcement agencies. Amber was reported missing from her home at approximately 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday by her father. Conservation officers participating in the search on all-terrain vehicles scoured the Manistee National Forest, which borders the area where the Smith family lives. Approximately 24 hours after she went missing, Amber Smith was located by Officer Ginn standing in the forest, alert and unharmed. Search grids used by the DNR were key to finding the little girl.
“Every year, Michigan conservation officers assist in searches for lost persons in the woods and on the water, saving many lives,” said Hagler. “There is much more to our jobs than just checking licenses and catching poachers. A conservation officer is also a public safety officer, employing his or her special skills in situations like these to help a family or a community.”