PARMA, Ohio — It was a race against time for Parma police officers early Tuesday morning, when they arrived at the Cleveland Metroparks West Creek Reservation and began to search for a 36-year-old man, who was last seen walking through Center Park with temperatures hovering near zero.
“The wife called and said that her husband had been missing for a few hours. He’d been drinking a lot, depressed from a funeral and she found out where he last was and was unable to get ahold of him because his cell phone died,” said Patrolman Matt Burkhart.
A total of eight officers fanned out and begin searching the snow covered park in sections.
“He had no way of communicating with anybody, until you know, officers showed up and started yelling for him, and heard him yelling back,” said Sgt. Dan Ciryak.
Officers found the victim lying in the snow in a heavily wooded area.
He had fallen and broken his leg in two places, and been exposed to the frigid conditions for more than four hours. He was suffering from hypothermia and frostbite.
“Given the two feet of snow, it was going to be really hard for the fire department to get in there, so they wanted to get him out as soon as possible,” said Patrolman Burkhart.
The officers worked as a relay team to carry the 200 pound man out of the woods and he was then taken by life squad to MetroHealth Medical Center.
“We had guys underneath his arms, we had a blanket wrapped underneath his legs so two of us were there, someone was hanging onto his feet. We were walking out and as soon as someone was getting a little winded, we traded out guys and kept carrying him,” said Burkhart.
Doctors said the victim’s body temperature was 83 degrees when he arrived at the emergency room. They said he would have been dead in a matter of hours, if the officers had not found him.
For the officers, the rescue was just part of a day’s work, but for the relieved loved ones of the victim, the patrolmen are the ultimate guardian angels.
The victim’s father visited the police station on Wednesday and was able to thank some of the officers for saving his son.