UPDATE: After more than six hours of searching for a man who’d called and said he’d injured his leg in the Ramapo Mountain Reservation, authorities said they suspected that he gotten out on his own and neglected to call them back– or that he never existed in the first place.
“If he ever was there, he disappeared,” one responder told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “It’s like the Great Houdini.”
A New Jersey State Police helicopter joined Mahwah, Oakland, Ringwood and state park police and the West Milford Search and Rescue unit in scouring the Bear Swamp section, among other areas of the 3,000+-acre county park. After a couple of hours, the chopper eventually began running low on fuel and had to leave.
Ringwood and state park police also checked for parked cars on access and other area roads and didn’t find any.
Mahwah Police Capt. Stuart Blank also had officers calling area hospitals, on the off-chance that the caller was being treated but neglected to have anyone inform police. They didn’t turn up anything.
“When officers first went up, they were met by workers plowing a utility road,” Blank told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “They said they hadn’t seen anyone.”
“Officers walked the entire lake and found a set of footprints headed into the area and then out,” he said.
Searchers thought they had a promising lead after finding a car parked in a reservation lot around 6:30 p.m. — more than four hours after the search began — but it was another hiker.
The call from Ringwood was received by central dispatch in Ridgewood via an Oakland cell tower at 2:20 p.m., Blank said. The caller told police he was 70 and had injured his leg. Authorities put his location at Bear Swamp.
The call dropped after about 15 seconds, but police couldn’t ring him him back: He apparently had a 911 phone that dials out but doesn’t receive calls.
The small, lightweight phones are designed as security devices giving seniors fast, convenient access to 911 anywhere without any fees or contracts. They’re often worn with accompanying neck straps.
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