Hurricane Dorian: Peace River K9 crew searches for missing people in Bahamas

A group of volunteers and specially trained dogs are getting ready for one of their biggest missions yet.

Peace River K9 Search & Rescue team in Charlotte County already went to the Bahamas to help find remains of people missing after Hurricane Dorian tore through the northern islands, and they are gearing up to return to the devastated islands.

K9 unit dog, Damma, is more than a pet. Dammas’ specialty is finding missing people.

“She’s got the nose,” said Michael Hadsell, founder of Peace River K9 Search & Rescue. “And their dog noses are about one million times better than mine.”

Damma can do things that officers by her side might not be able to do on their own.

“She goes into the rubble and finds the remains,” Hadsell said. “And then let’s me know where it is.”

Damma and sic other K9 units traveled with 14 volunteers to an area near Freeport on Grand Bahama Island after Dorian left behind destruction. The crews spent four days searching for people who went missing during and after the storm.

The K9 units alerted their handlers to 15 different spots. Then, volunteers notified law enforcement to bring in machinery and clear off the debris, a physically draining experience. And their discoveries —heartbreaking.

“It was a child’s essay book — books, pencils, children’s books,” Hadsell said. “And there was obviously a child somewhere down in that pile, and that was a hard one for me.”

Now, the dogs and their volunteers are getting ready to head back to the Abaco Islands, the area hit hardest by Hurricane Dorian.

The Peace River crew leaves for its next mission Tuesday. They will take a cruise ship from West Palm Beach to the Abacos.

“We don’t want to leave anybody behind,” Hadsell said. “And we want to make sure everybody comes home.”

Reporter:Erika Jackson
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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