In a very rare mission for Daviess County Search and Rescue (DCSAR), two volunteers with the groups K9 unit helped find a burial site from the early 1800s in northwestern Vanderburgh County, Ind.
Bill Huff and Terry Settle were contacted in late fall by an Indiana man who was attempting to find a gravesite where his ancestors were buried. According to him, Huff said, the farmer that owns the land disrupted the graves by farming over them.
Huff and Settle were joined by another dog and handler from the Evansville area in early March to begin their search for the gravesite. The team of three dogs used the scent of bones from the early 1800s to help locate the graves, according to Huff.
“When we thought they hit on a smell, we threw down a poker chip,” Huff told Owensboro Times. “All three of us did that three times and we saw a pattern.”
Last week an excavation team began digging the area that the rescue team marked, finding 15 bodies, Huff said.
“I work search and rescue with my dog on fresh scent,” Huff said. “I never had any idea that we could actually pick up scent from three to five foot graves.”
Huff said this was one of his most interesting missions. The happiest he remembers was finding a lost toddler in hundreds of acres of corn.
DCSAR is an all-volunteer arm of Daviess County Emergency Management Agency (DCEMA). The team is made up of three units: operations, ground search and K9. According to DCEMA Deputy Director John Clouse, the ops team runs the command post and helps him coordinate the mission, while the ground search unit is skilled in tracking and reading trail signs and the K9s follow scent trails, pointing the team in the right direction.
“We are unique to this area because we are a ‘traditional’ search and rescue team, whereas most of our surrounding counties are Fire Service Rescue Units, like volunteer fire departments,” Clouse said. “We are a regionally- and state-deployable asset and we have a state-to-state agreement with Spencer County, Ind. to help them as needed.”
DCSAR currently has 40 volunteers and train up to two times per week. They are called on by Daviess County Sheriff’s Office, Owensboro Police Department and Kentucky State Police for a variety of missions, most often for missing persons cases.