Search teams find missing man who fell from bluff

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BOONE COUNTY - Search teams have found strong evidence regarding the location of a Columbia man who was missing for more than five hours after he called 911 and said he fell from a bluff and hit his head.

Capt. Colin Wright of Southern Boone County Fire Protection said troopers from the Missouri State Highway Patrol found evidence to suggest the man might be located near County Road 343 just after 6 p.m. He said troopers eventually found the man in Callaway County near Backbone Road and Cedar Creek.

At 1:30 p.m., 911 dispatchers received a call from a Columbia resident who said he fell from a bluff in the Three Creeks Wildlife Conservation Area near Tom Bass Road. Dispatchers eventually lost contact with him.

Officers were pinging his phone, but the signals were inconsistent. Pings are usually accurate to within 200 yards, but Wright said, "If he's unresponsive or can't contact us, we're going to have to be pretty much right on top of him to find him."

The search teams were using ATVs to look for the man's vehicle, a white 2014 Jeep Wrangler with a soft top, but the ATVs were getting stuck and getting flat tires due to the rugged terrain in the Three Creeks Conservation Area.  

Detection dogs and search teams from the Boone County and Southern Boone County Fire Protection Districts, Boone County Sheriff's Department and the Missouri Department of Conservation, some on horseback, searched the conservation area to the find the man. The teams searched three miles of the creek, a mile and a half on each side.

Wright said they planned to use a heat-sensing technique via search helicopter after the sun went down, but added, "Chances are, if we can't find him in the daylight, then we won't be able to find him at night."

Less than 10 minutes later, during the waning minutes of Thursday's twilight, the call came in from highway patrol confirming they had found the missing man. 

No name or condition has been released but Wright said the man was in his mid-fifties.