Grief over son’s death and lack of knowledge about SAR leads to book about SAR in the US.Posted: October 14, 2010
The article points out what the father did not know. The book is also a way to deal with the loss of a son.
Jon Francis was lost climbing an Idaho peak in 2005. After two days of searching the search (SAR) was called off. His father did not and continues to not understand why the SAR was canceled.
His son was eventually found by paid searches’ months later. The issues of pleading for help and not understanding SAR in the US lead to the creation of this book. The book was self-published, probably meaning no book publisher would publish it.
The article is full of interesting statements about SAR in the US today. Most of the statements show a total lack of knowledge about how SAR works, both by the father of the missing climber and the journalist who wrote the article.
The father’s grief and frustration come through the most in the article. He describes the reasons why the search was eventually canceled as the people involved in the search were “risk averse.” Yet the search for his son ran longer than 90% of the searches in the US.
His grief also comes through in his reasons for writing the book. He wanted the world to know about his son.
A volunteer who is putting his life on the line, for free, looking for someone who died is not risk averse. The person who must live with the loss of a volunteer from a SAR that goes wrong is not risk averse. These people are volunteers. They are hiking the same trails that killed the son. They are doing this for a multitude of reasons, and will do so to the verge of exhaustion if necessary. They are undertaking the same risks that killed the son. How a grieving father can call volunteers undertaking the identical risk that killed his son as risk averse is unbelievable to me.
The father did not understand that SAR in most states is controlled by the Sheriff. In a few states, other agencies are in charge of SAR. There is a nationwide SAR organization, but the organization NASAR does not run searches. It only assists local organizations.
It is hard to tell, but I don’t believe that the father ever looked at the risk the SAR searches were facing. He wanted his son’s body back so badly, that the lives of others did not seem to register as an issue to him. This may be the way the journalist wrote the article, or it may be an issue. Yet this issue cannot be denied. No body is worth a life.
This is a sad story and probably a sad book. However, there are several things we can learn from this.
Grief in the US is an unbelievably strong motivator. People do not die in the US before they have lived a long life. If they do, we do not accept it. Here the grief led to the creation of an organization to assist others in finding lost people, a book and a five year condemnation of the SAR system.
People in the US do not understand how SAR works. SAR is done by volunteers except in some National Parks. Those volunteers work at the behest and in most cases control of the local sheriff.
SAR volunteers do not get the support, the equipment or most importantly the thanks they deserve.
See The father of a man who died on an Idaho peak wants to reform search and rescue.
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