An all-out search for a missing 71-year-old Oak Bluffs woman ended successfully Tuesday when she was discovered sitting on a stone wall in Vineyard Haven by an alert Tisbury Police officer.
The search began a little after 2 pm on Tuesday, when the Oak Bluffs Police Department received a call from Jim Lockhart, who reported that his wife Ruth, 71, who is afflicted with early-onset dementia, had not returned from her morning walk. Mr. Lockhart told police she normally walked in the East Chop area. He said he had contacted friends and searched all likely places, with no success.
Mr. Lockhart’s call set off a chain response that quickly included several Island police departments, the Massachusetts State Police, the Oak Bluffs fire/EMS department, and the Barnstable Sheriff department K-9 search team.
Police fanned out over town, checking the hospital, the Council on Aging, the public library, the Steamship Authority terminals, and town beaches.
Social media also played an important role. At 3:30 pm, Oak Bluffs Police posted a picture of Mrs. Lockhart on their Facebook page and texted her picture to the Vineyard Transit Authority. The MV Times also posted an alert.
Oak Bluffs Fire Chief John Rose set up a command post at the fire station, where 15 firefighters and EMTs had mustered in short order. They were divided into teams, and by 3:30 pm, they were making a systematic search of the East Chop area. Chief Rose also ordered reverse-911 calls to alert the public.
At 5:15 pm, a person who saw the police Facebook post about Ms. Lockhart called and said they had seen her near Crane Appliance Store on State Road. Tisbury Police Officer Mark Stanton quickly located Ms. Lockhart. He described her as “very confused but in good health.”
On Wednesday, Mr. Lockhart posted a message on the Oak Bluffs Police Facebook page: “The Lockhart Family can’t thank the Oak Bluffs Police Department enough for their speed, concern and care and their professionalism in which it seemed the whole department, including the police Chief, went into action to find my wife Ruth Lockhart … SUPPORT OUR LOCAL POLICE. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”