Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Missing: Two Children in South Carolina Park

Crews Scouring for Dad, Two Kids Missing at Congaree Park

Dozens of searchers are scouring a swampy national park in South Carolina for a father and his two children who disappeared Saturday during a hike, officials said.
Congaree National Park in Richland County, S.C., was closed Monday as search crews combed through thousands of acres of parkland in search of Jerry Robert "J.R." Kimbler, his 10-year-old son and his 6-year-old daughter, said National Parks Service spokeswoman Dana Soehn.
Kimbler, 43, and his young children departed for the hike from the Harry Hampton Visitor Center around 5 p.m. Saturday, according to Soehn.
Soehn said the last known contact with the missing trio was a text message Kimbler sent to a friend at 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Kimbler told the friend that he was lost — and the friend quickly reached out to the mother of Kimbler's kids, who alerted park rangers, according to Soehn.
Search teams have already picked through 9,000 acres of the 27,000-acre park on foot, on boats and on helicopters as the frantic search mission came up on the 48-hour mark Monday with no sign of Kimbler and his kids, Soehn said.
Searchers gather Monday morning at Congaree National Park in Hopkins, S.C.
"This has been a very difficult search," Soehn said, adding that search crews faced high water, dense vegetation and obstructions like tree limbs topped by the winter's brutal ice storm.
"The terrain has been very difficult for the searchers. Some areas that would've been a 30-minute walk down the trail are turning into a 2-hour scramble over thickets," Soehn said.
The description reveals frustration as does the above.  The "very difficult" search may indicate that the subject expected better results sooner.  Sound does not travel well through thickets.  
In addition to emergency personnel, the missing children's mother, Tammy Ballard, walked the trails early Monday yelling her kids' names, according to NBC affiliate WIS 10 in Columbia, S.C.
"I can't sleep," Ballard told the station. "I can't do anything. I don't know where my babies are."
In context, the 10 year old and 6 year old are "babies"; that is, at risk, vulnerable.  Note ownership.  
Park officials had no idea Monday how the father and his children managed to veer off the park's marked trails.


GeekRad said...

Ok, dumb question. If his phone managed to transmit a text are they not tracking his location by GPS? Don't most cell phones have GPS now?

Anonymous said...

They have been found safe. http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/missing-family-found-safe-swampy-south-carolina-park-n92341

Tania Cadogan said...

CONGAREE NATIONAL PARK, S.C. – Search crews have found a father and his two children who had been missing for more than two days in the vast woods and swamps of the Congaree National Park in South Carolina, officials said Tuesday.

In a news release, the National Park Service said rangers had located J.R. Kimbler, his 10-year-old son, Dakota, and his 6-year-old daughter, Jade.

The three did not appear to be seriously hurt and were being taken to a local hospital for observation, officials said. Authorities planned to release more information later in the day.

Crews traveling by airplane, boat and on foot had been looking for the family in the 27,000-acre site since the father sent a text message late Saturday saying they were lost.

Officials closed the park Monday afternoon during the search. An investigative team from the National Park Service had also checked on leads outside the park in case the family members had not been lost while hiking.

There had been no indication Kimbler, 43, took any camping gear or other items for an overnight stay. The taxi driver left his cigarettes in his cab that was still parked near the visitor's center Monday, and his daughter's inhaler and other medicine were in the hotel room where he lived, according to his family.

The park has marked trails, but beyond the paths are tangles of old growth trees, swamps and underbrush. The land has become even more rugged since an ice storm in February knocked down thousands of trees and limbs.

"Many of the trails you can't see to navigate right now," said Sana Sohen, a park service spokeswoman.

The mother of the two children, Tammy Ballard, was at the park during the search, walking down trails, calling their names.

"It's been tough. I see so many footprints out there," Ballard said Monday. She did not immediately respond to a phone message Tuesday.

Officials had been worried because of the storms expected to move into the state later Tuesday.

Kimbler had been out of his children's lives for a few years but recently started to get them on the weekends, said Chris Ballard, stepbrother of the missing children. Kimbler took them to the skating rink and the zoo in recent weeks. The trip to Congaree National Park was the first time he had been out there, he said.


Tania Cadogan said...

I don't understand why he texted rather than call 911, it almost sounds as if he was planning something and then had second thoughts.

Anonymous said...


Congaree park is pretty remote and the number of cell towers around the area would give you poor reception while in many parts of the park. Getting a voice connection on a phone requires a decent data transefer rate that may not be possible. Sending a text message is only a few bytes of info and can often be sent with very poor connectivity. Many people that spend a lot of time in the outdoors know that if you are lost to try sending a text message vice trying to call. It conserves your battery and has a higher chance of getting through to a recipient than a traditional voice call.

Most smart phones have GPS now however, the phones do not transmit a GPS position, need to be subscribed to a GPS service(or app) and require a clear view of the sky to pick up the time signals from the satellites. Triangulation using cell tower requires more than one tower and thus was probably not an option in this case.

Another, admittedly poor, option would be to take a picture with the phone, try to send it via MMS and hope you have enough connectivity to get the photo out and that someone on the other end is smart enough to extract the metadata in the photo to get a position. Oh yeah, and then stay right where you are so people can find you ;)


Tania Cadogan said...

Thanks Akula

GeekRad said...

Thanks Akula

Unknown said...

Thanks for clarifying some of those issues about the phone Akula. That was the most troubling detail to me, that the Dad texted and didn't call for help, but it makes sense it voice calling wasn't an option.

Admittedly, I wasn't expecting this outcome when I read the initial story, but I'm glad it really was a case of them getting lost, and nothing sinister like the dad running off with the kids. That said, the dad doesn't seem to have the best judgement based on the fact that he began a hike through rough terrain with a 6 & 10yo at 5pm, and didn't have the sense to call it off when he realized the trails were not navigable.

If I were the Mom, he wouldn't be spending any unsupervised time with my kids for a loooong time, lol!

JoAnn said...

Jen Ow,
You took the words right out of my mouth! He would need close supervision in the future.
Thanks for the info about the phone. Texting vs calling makes sense now that you've explained it.