MANCHESTER, NH – Police were able to reunite a city man with his family after he left his home late Monday night.
Leo Dion, 80, suffers from dementia and becomes easily disoriented. By Tuesday morning, State Police had joined the search and issued a “silver alert,” like an Amber alert but for vulnerable missing adults.
Manchester Police Chief Allen Aldenberg said he is thankful that the search was successful, and the end of the story is a happy one.
“Especially with the conditions overnight we’re fortunate to have found him when we did. We were concerned about once it started getting dark what our next approach would be. I’m thankful not only to my officers but with assistance from Manchester Fire we got a command post up quickly,” Aldenberg said. “We work well together and started searching for him in an organized fashion putting people in the right places based off what we assumed would be his direction of travel – and we were thankfully right on that.”
Aldenberg credited Det. Christopher Abele with finding Mr. Dion, who was found about 10-15 feet down an embankment at the end of Bartlett Street, which dead ends.
“We had officers down below and Det. Abele was checking from above when he came upon Mr. Dion who was kind of under a large fallen tree. We made the assumption he either got to the end of the road and walked off or slipped and slid down the hill. We’re assuming he was there basically all night, obviously unable to get up or move or have the ability to yell for help,” Aldenberg said.
Police determined that Mr. Dion had left his home on Valley West Way at about 11:30 p.m., and a neighbor’s surveillance camera captured him walking south on Blucher Street around that time. He was not properly dressed for the temperatures, dressed only in pajamas, a sweatshirt and socks, which heightened concern for his safety, police said.
Manchester Police, with help from Manchester Fire officials and New Hampshire State Police, conducted a systematic grid search on the West Side of the city covering a full square mile. The search also involved the use of police dogs, ATVs, horses, and door-to-door inquiries.
After hours of searching, officers located Mr. Dion about a quarter-mile from his home, down an embankment. Despite being outside in the cold for more than 12 hours, he was conscious and aware. EMTs promptly evaluated him on-site before bringing him to the hospital where he was reunited with his family.
Police called the successful search and recovery mission a “testament to the power of community and teamwork.”
Aldenberg said the frequency of “vulnerable missing adult” calls for service is part of what prompted Manchester Police to initiate its “Just in Case” program.
“Anyone out there who wants to take advantage of that program they can contact Officer Steven Duquette and he will facilitate getting families enrolled, whether you have a loved one who is elderly or autistic or has some other situation that might make them vulnerable,” Aldenberg said.
There have been at least two dozen “silver alerts” issued by State Police since the start of 2023. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are programs in place for families whose loved ones suffer from the disease, including a MedicAlert program with “Wandering Support.” You can learn more here.