Drone flyer Michael Hooper was presented with a Chief Constable’s Citizen’s Commendation award on Monday 13 January 2020.
On Monday 12 August 2019, police received a report that a 14-year-old teenage girl was missing from home.
After receiving some intelligence in relation to a potential location, officers set up an area search at Irlam Locks.
When officers arrived at the locks, they came across Michael Hooper on the towpath; he was flying a drone.
As the National Police Air Service and the Drone Unit were unavailable to assist with the search, officers provided Michael with a description of the missing girl, in the hope that he may be able to assist the search by using the drone. Officers then continued with their area search.
A short time later, Michael called GMP to inform us that he had located the missing teenager by using the drone to search inaccessible areas. She was found sitting behind trees on the bankside, which had hidden her from the sight of the officers on the ground.
Michael approached the girl to check on her welfare, but she would not engage with him. He retreated so as not to startle her, but kept her within his sights while he remained in contact with police.
When officers arrived at the scene, Michael directed them to the girl’s location. After a brief stand-off, the girl was safely detained by officers and led away from the waterside. She was returned safe and well to her parents, who were understandably worried.
Chief Constable Ian Hopkins, presented Michael with his award, and said:
“Without Michael’s assistance with the aerial search, officers would have had no idea the girl was there and the search would have been much more challenging.
“It was a cold day with a strong wind and it was getting dark. The girl had been sitting incredibly close to freezing water; the risk to her life was extremely high and only increasing.
“Michael’s diligence, skill and generosity with his time, bridged a vital gap in air support resourcing.
“Well done Michael, and thank you.”
After being presented with the award, Michael said:
“To be honest, it was a stroke of luck; all I did was fly the drone along the side of the canal. I was just really glad that we managed to find the girl.
“I actually feel quite embarrassed receiving the award, as it was just something that was done by reaction – something that anyone else would have done. Despite being embarrassed, I have placed my award on my desk in my office.
“I was really impressed with the awards ceremony; it was short, sweet, and a very enjoyable evening.”
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