teen in quarry

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Holly Fesperman Lee
Salisbury PostRescue workers searched for hours New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day to find a Woodleaf teen who called 911 after wandering away from a party and getting lost in a nearby rock quarry.
With the search still ongoing, they learned the 18-year-old had left the quarry and spent the night at a friend’s house without notifying authorities, according to a Rowan Rescue Squad official.
West Rowan High School student Austin Perrell, of Woodleaf Road, walked away from a party he was attending sometime after 1 a.m. Tuesday and wandered onto the property of Martin Marietta Quarries, officials said.
Rowan County Rescue Squad Chief Coyt Karriker said Perrell became disoriented once he got onto the quarry property and used his cell phone to call 911 for help.
Karriker said 911 operators used the system’s mapping program to get a location on Perrell’s cell phone signal.
“They could tell he was on the backside of the property near a lagoon,” Karriker said.
After the call, operators dispatched the Rowan Rescue Squad and the Woodleaf Fire Department.
Karriker said that when he arrived, he went into the quarry and called 911 with his cell phone so operators could use the matching function of the mapping program to link his location with the coordinates from Perrell’s cell phone as he moved through the quarry.
Karriker said 911 operators lost contact with Perrell and weren’t able to get him back on the phone.
Workers went to the spot near the lagoon where 911 tracked Perrell’s cell phone but “Once we got there, he wasn’t anywhere to be found,” Karriker said.
When searchers didn’t find Perrell in the quarry, Karriker said, they went back to the party where he was last seen.
From there, authorities used bloodhounds attempting to track Perrell. When that was unsuccessful, Karriker said, rescuers decided to perform a more intense search of the quarry.
Davie and Cabarrus rescue squads, along with quarry employees, helped with the search.
“At the same time we notified the Highway Patrol, requesting their helicopter,” Karriker said.
Since Perrell didn’t have any known medical conditions and was dressed appropriately for the temperature, the pilot wouldn’t fly at night, but the helicopter arrived in the morning.
“We had just about exhausted the first overlaying search when we got a call from the Sheriff’s Office that they had picked him up,” Karriker said.
A neighbor who knew police were searching for Perrell spotted him walking along Woodleaf-Barber Road around 10 a.m. Tuesday.
The neighbor was driving to the Woodleaf Fire Department to tell authorities, but a Rowan County Sheriff’s deputy happened to be in the area assisting with the helicopter.
“The neighbor stopped and told the deputy that the guy we were looking for was walking down Woodleaf-Barber Road,” Karriker said.
He said authorities “feel very confident” that Perrell had left the quarry by walking along the railroad tracks before searchers even arrived there.
“He informed us that he spent the night at a friend’s house on Woodleaf-Barber Road,” Karriker said.
Perrell told police that when he woke up Tuesday morning, he started walking home.
Karriker said Perrell was brought to the command post and, after hugs and kisses from family, paramedics checked him out.
“He didn’t remember a whole lot about the night before,” Karriker said.
Karriker said he couldn’t say for sure whether alcohol was involved in Perrell getting lost. He said Perrell showed no signs of alcohol consumption at the command post, hours later.
Sheriff’s Capt. John Sifford also said he could not confirm whether alcohol was a factor. Sifford said the investigation is ongoing and he couldn’t release that information.
Perrell did not break any laws when he called 911, Sifford added.
“We don’t foresee any charges, because he was, in fact, lost,” he said.
Contact Holly Lee at 704-797-7683 or hlee@salisburypost.com.