Drone Used to Find Stranded Boater Suffering from Heart Attack in Algona

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ALGONA, Iowa - A river rescue in Algona on Wednesday, July 13 had a positive outcome, thanks to some help from a newly-purchased drone.

Wednesday night Kossuth County authorities got a call from a family saying loved ones had been on the East Fork of the Des Moines River, and had not returned at the expected time.

A search and rescue was launched when David Penton, Kossuth County Emergency Manager remembered a new tool purchased by the Sheriff’s Office. Authorities learned the stranded boaters did not know where they were, and daylight was fading.

A deputy had been training and is licensed to fly a new drone which was purchased in May. He arrived near the search area within 20 minutes. Three minutes after the drone was in the air, he found the stranded boaters guiding rescuers, by hovering over their location.

As crews found the man and his granddaughter he reported he thought he was having a heart attack.

“We quickly turned from a search and rescue operation to a medical evacuation,” said Penton. “From the time of rescue to evacuation was almost an hour, due to the terrain."

The man, Thomas Fitzpatrick, was flown by medical helicopter to Mason City, where he has been upgraded from critical condition to stable condition Thursday night.

"Through the research, we came on this DJ phantom four," said Chief Deputy Nick Larson. "The reviews were good. It was in a price range that we could afford it about $1,400."

"A drone was used in a search and rescue about a year ago, it was not our drone," said Stephen Kollasch, Sheriff of Kossuth County.

A grant paid for a majority of the drone. Kossuth County is already considering the purchase of a second drone with infrared cameras to be able to do search and rescue after dark.

Penton said he is impressed with the drone's capabilities, but he doesn't want to take anything away from the fire and rescue crews who do the hard work looking for lost people.