DENVER, NC (WBTV) - A massive search ensues in the early morning hours on Thursday after a 72-year old man with Alzheimer's disappears from his home.
"The number one concern is the weather." said Dion Burleson with the Denver fire department. "The terrain that we have here, there's some deep gullies, a heavily wooded, very thick area that we're in, and it makes searching difficult."
Emergency crews were called out to the area around Kidville Road and Saint James Church Road, after 72-year old Johnny William Thompson walked away from his rural home.
"He came outside to walk around." recalled Sheila Abernathy, who is the daughter of the missing man. "My niece told him they were going in to get some ice cream, he said 'okay'. He turned around, and we haven't seen him since."
What added to the urgency of the situation, was the family reported Thompson was suffering from the first stages of Alzheimer's disease.
"The likelihood of this gentleman finding his way out is greatly diminished because of the Alzheimer's." said Burleson.
A total of nine teams, with an average of four per team began the methodical search for Thompson. At first, a "hasty" search was done, in which the quick look at the major hotspots to try to locate the missing man quickly. When the first search came up empty, a more detailed operation began.
Several different fire companies were called out along with the Sheriff's Department to add manpower. State Troopers brought in their helicopter with heat sensors onboard, but nothing was found.
Thompson's family members joined in the search trying to bring the elderly man home.
"His son is out there looking for him." said Peggy Odum, who is the victim's sister. "His grandson, his niece, his brother, his son-in-law. We have many family members out there searching for him."
Finally, around 3am, the word everyone was hoping for came across on the radio.
"Rescue team two called back and said that they found the victim." said Dion Burleson. "He was a half a mile away from his home, in a thick-wooded area. He was found standing up leaning against a tree. He was conscious, he was talking. Very strong gentleman."
Thompson was transported to Johns Medical Center in Lincolnton, we're he's recovering surrounded by friends and family.
Officials said they expect he'll be just fine.