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Elderly missing man found alive

John Thomas Foster, the 91-year-old man who had been the focus of a three-day search in the Birch-Elmo community of Halifax County, was found alive Friday shortly after noon.


According to Halifax County Sheriff Fred S. Clark, Foster was found just minutes after Terry Adams of the Charlottesville Search and Rescue team discovered lying on the ground an article of clothing and a pair of glasses the elderly man had been wearing.

Nicole Cheatle of Culpeper Search and Rescue Team and her air scent search K-9, Finn, spotted the elderly gentleman lying on the ground just yards away from where Adams found the shirt and glasses.

Clad in his t-shirt, Foster was discovered 250 yards off the road in a thickly-wooded area about a quarter of a mile from the intersection of Birch Elmo Road and New Zion Church Road, the sheriff said.

“He appeared to be in fair condition,” Clark said Friday afternoon. “He suffered numerous insect bites and was severely dehydrated, but he was alive.”

Halifax County Rescue Squad transported Foster to Halifax Regional Hospital around 12:30 p.m. where he was treated.

Law enforcement officers, volunteer firefighters and 20 volunteer search and rescue teams from across the state joined in the 26-hour search for Foster who is believed to have spent over 40 hours in the woods near his Birch Elmo Road residence before being located.

Authorities from Halifax County Sheriff’s Office, Virginia State Police, Pittsylvania County Emergency Management Mobil Command Team, Angel Search and Rescue, Halifax County Search and Rescue, Halifax County Emergency Services, Halifax County Rescue Squad, Commonwealth Search and Rescue, Piedmont Search and Rescue and the Virginia State Police helicopter joined in the three-day search.

Foster, who has no family living in the immediate area, was reported missing by a caretaker who checks on him regularly, the sheriff explained. The last time a caretaker spoke with Foster was on Wednesday around 3 p.m. when he saw him walking along Birch-Elmo Road, about two miles from Birchland Park.

While state police helicopters searched from the air, numerous volunteers assisted search and rescue team members in the ground search for Foster Wednesday evening into Thursday and again on Friday.

After the ordeal ended Friday around noon, a relieved Sheriff Clark extended praise to everyone who participated in the search.

“Twenty different volunteer search and rescue teams came here from across the state to help us find Mr. Foster, and we are so grateful for their time and effort which paid off when he was found alive,” Clark said.

The sheriff extended “a huge thank you to Kirby Saunders and Chad Loftis of Halifax County Emergency Services, Wendy Jones of the E-911 center and First Sgt. Jeff Lane of the Virginia State Police who were at the command post during the entire search.”

“Everyone worked together, and with the help of all these volunteers the search ended positively,” Clark said commending all involved for their efforts.