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Man with Alzheimer's found by using electronic tracker

TAMPA — A 77-year-old man with Alzheimer's disease who went missing Thursday was found by deputies who activated an electronic locator on the man's ankle.

Carl Chandler of W Hiawatha Street in Tampa goes for a walk around his neighborhood every afternoon. He's usually gone for about a half hour.

His wife of 55 years, Naomi Fay Chandler, said she got worried when Chandler didn't come home after about an hour.

Chandler wears an electronic LoJack SafteyNet tracker that is registered with the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office through a nonprofit Virginia company called Project Lifesaver. When Chandler's wife notified deputies that he was missing, they turned on his tracker.

Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Debbie Carter said a sheriff's helicopter was the first to locate Chandler's signal, and the deputy relayed it to units on the ground who followed it to Chandler — about 2 miles away.

"He hadn't had any supper. He was hungry, alright," Mrs. Chandler said.

She said it's not the first time her husband has wandered away. He has had trouble finding his way back home after neighborhood walks before, but Mrs. Chandler said she can usually circle the block and find him.

"I don't like to trouble the sheriff unless it's absolutely necessary," she said. "It was just the mercy of God that they found him so quickly."

The Sheriff's Office launched the tracking program last year. It costs $99 to enroll, plus $30 a month to stay active, Carter said.

"It works kind of like on the same premise as stolen vehicles with the LoJack on them," Carter said. "They can track it within minutes."

Christine Platz, a spokeswoman for Project Lifesaver, said the program has helped find more than 2,000 people since its inception in 1999.

About 15,000 people wear the locators, which can be worn on the wrist or ankle, in 45 states plus parts of Canada and Australia, Platz said.

That includes five to 10 people in Hillsborough County and about 25 in Pinellas, she said.

Chandler was the second person in Hillsborough to receive one, his wife said. "Without it he would be in a nursing home," Mrs. Chandler said.

The battery-operated trackers emit radio frequencies that can be turned on and tracked by law enforcement agencies remotely. They are water-resistant and worn at all times, Platz said.

Once a month, a deputy or a trained volunteer comes to the wearer's home and changes the battery.

Platz said the average search time is about a half hour.

"I tell you, it's a wonderful peace of mind," Mrs. Chandler said.

Man with Alzheimer's found by using electronic tracker 01/15/10 [Last modified: Monday, January 18, 2010 11:28am]
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