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Clinton man with Down syndrome reported missing, found by 'Project Lifesaver'

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Brian Gray-Hicks likes to be active, and goes for daily walks near his home in Clinton.

“Our Brian usually goes for a walk everyday. Most days he’s goes in the mornings,” said his guardian Barbara Hicks.

But last Tuesday night, Brian, who has Down syndrome, went for a walk around 6 p.m. He didn’t come home at his expected time.

Barbara, his guardian since Brian was 18, called 9-1-1. He was found shortly thereafter, thanks to the small transmitter on his right arm.

When asked how he felt when the police came along, Brian said, “Better. A lot better.”

Brian, who is 49 years old, very hard of hearing, and largely non-verbal.

“They located him just in time. He had wandered onto some private property, and there were two dogs being aggressive with him. And he was very emotional and scared,” said Huron OPP Community Services Officer Craig Soldan.

Barbara Hicks and Brian Gray-Hicks, seen on April 18, 2024 in Clinton. (Scott Miller/CTV News London)

“The dogs didn’t hurt you, but they could have. Yeah. So this was very important to have that bracelet on,” say Barbara and Brian.

The transmitter on his wrist is part of Project Lifesaver. The Hicks invested in the program a few months ago after Brian’s second time going missing in the past 12 months.

Each transmitter emits an automatic tracking signal. Search teams can pinpoint that signal from eight to 10 miles away.

In Brian’s case, he was found within minutes of being reported missing.

“In this case, it was a real lifesaver for us. We know that we can fall back on that,” said Barbara, who now has Brian carry a timer with him to know when to come home.

Project Lifesaver equipment used to help locate missing people, seen on April 18, 2024 in Clinton. (Scott Miller/CTV News London)

Even though it’s older VHF radio frequency technology, Project Lifesaver is more reliable than GPS, especially in dense, wooded areas, said Soldan.

That’s because most remote areas, where people typically go missing, won’t have cell phone or GPS signal at all.

“So with radio frequency, it’s actually better, more accurate, even though it’s older technology,” said Soldan.

In Huron County, Project Lifesaver is managed by Huron County Paramedics. They said the program is for anyone with cognitive impairment, of any age.

“For anyone that wanders. Anyone with dementia, Alzheimer’s, any cognitive impairment. This is something that can literally save a life. Most sign ups are through referrals through a family physician. There are other ways of doing it, but that’s probably the best way to sign up. We have 15 to 20 people signed up right now,” said Huron County Community Paramedic Christian Atkinson.

Project Lifesaver equipment used to help locate missing people, seen on April 18, 2024 in Clinton. (Scott Miller/CTV News London)

The Hicks are certainly happy Brian has a Project Lifesaver transmitter on his wrist, and encourage others to sign up, as well.

“You would really promote people having this, Brian?” “Yeah.” “Because it helped you, right?” “Yeah, it did,” said Barbara and Brian.

Huron County’s Project Lifesaver has a one time set up fee, and $10/month maintenance fee.

To sign up by calling Huron County Community Paramedicine at 1-866-340-9357 ext. 1.

You can learn more about the overall program by visiting their website.

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