Search and rescue experts in call for more volunteers

Search and rescue experts  in call for more volunteers

From left, Aden Atkins, Chantelle Cresswell, Nick Anderson, Steve Archibald, Paul Minto, Karen Meynink, Richard Hinkins and chairman Pat Conafray

Volunteers in a training exercise at Port Meadow, Oxford, last year

First published in News Bicester Advertiser: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Abingdon and Wantage, South Oxford and Kennington. Call me on 01865 425431

VOLUNTEERS are needed to help search for people missing in Oxfordshire.

Already this year, Thames Valley Police have called on Oxfordshire lowland Search And Rescue (OxSAR) to help with more searches than during the whole of 2013.

The hunts for grandmother Jackie Gulliford and a woman found in the Thames by Oxford Ice Rink are just two of the 30 cases they have tackled.

Volunteer Steve Archibald, 44, who runs an oven cleaning business by day, said: “The police search experts have realised what a resource we are. We are free and we allow them to do what they do best.

“As a result we have had a phenomenal amount of work this year.”

Police called on OxSAR to help search for Firzana Saeed, of Hill View Road, Oxford, when she was reported missing on March 14.

Group volunteers found her body the following day in the Thames behind Oxford Ice Rink while searching the river by boat.

Mr Archibald, a dad-of-one from Summertown, said: “The river was going very fast, we had to hold the throttle steady to keep the boat still. They saw something in the water and didn’t know what it was until they got right next to it.

“You have to be made of stern stuff – there isn’t always a happy ending.”

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Volunteers also have to be prepared to get up in the middle of the night, said Mr Archibald.

“It’s never a Saturday or a Sunday either,” he added, “It’s always the middle of the week.

“If you have a young family it is probably not for you. We need a long-term commitment.”

OxSAR’s 40 volunteer searchers work with police in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire.

They also helped rescue people during this year’s flooding.

The group wants to recruit 15 new searchers to start training in September.

Mr Archibald said the group is also urgently in need of fundraisers to give three hours a week to help raise the £12,000 it needs a year to keep going.

Funds pay for petrol, vehicles, boats, new equipment and storage units.

New recruits are trained to understand the behaviour of people who go missing, navigation, search skills, first aid and the use of our radio communications

Email or call Pat Conafray on 07788 583543

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