October 2007

Walt Barrand Gives His All To Search And Rescue

By Mike Wallace
Superstition Search & Rescue

While my wife and I were waiting to be seated at our favorite Mexican food restaurant, I received a call from a friend. His voice was nervous from worry, exclaiming “Mike, my boy is missing.”

He went on to explain, “He went on a hike with his scout troop, and no one has heard from them; what should we do?”   I informed my friend to call 911 and report the missing troop.  I assured him that if they were lost, our team would find them.

After ending our conversation, my wife — seeing the concern on my face — asked what was wrong. After explaining, we looked at each other quiet for a moment verbally, saying nothing but communicating our worries through our eyes. 

I was very worried about this troop because of the personal attachment.  I knew many of these boys and their parents, and to make things worse, a cold front was moving in. 

Two Years Ago: Storm And Snow

Most of us who live in Arizona remember this storm two years ago.  It dumped snow clear down into the low deserts of our state. As rare and beautiful as this was, it presented a serious situation for these boys and their leaders.

The dinner with my wife was cut short by my pager beeping. The texting read “911 need all qualified rescuers, 10 boys and three leaders lost in snow storm.” 

The drive into the search area was difficult, and the visibility was at times nearly zero.  The snow was horizontal and the landscape was whited out. 

We immediately kicked a two-man team as “team one” into the field to perform a “hasty search” — Walt Barrand and Larry Hincha.  The weather condition was horrible.  Larry and Walt fought that storm through most of that night. 

The snow drifts were chest high and the frigid temperature was numbing.  Several hours before light and for the first time I can remember, we pulled our team from the field. 

The heart-breaking reality was that one of two things had happened to the troop at this time.  If the troop had not hunkered down and tried to hike through the night, they would not be alive.  On the other hand, if they had hunkered and put as many warm-bodied scouts as possible into a tent, the odds were they were still alive.  

The lives of our rescuers were now being compromised.  The two rescuers were physically and emotional drained from “post holing” through most of that night.

 The announcement over the air that all rescuers were to return to base was followed by much silence by all. The white screen of horizontal snow around us was broken by the silhouette of two figures later that morning.  Their bodies were postured with defeat. 

‘We Really Tried’

Exhausted, they climbed into a truck to warm themselves.  Walt looked up at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Wallace, we tried we really tried hard; we just could find those boys.”  Walt’s wife Debbie shared with me at a later date what Walt was feeling that night, saying, “That was the hardest thing that he has ever done in his life.  Leaving those boys in the field, knowing how cold it was, devastated him. He was exhausted from that search, but he did not want to come in.”   

There are three stories that could be told here. Let’s begin with Walt Barrand.  He was born in Fort Wayne, Ind. and raised by his Cherokee mom who taught Walt about his Indian heritage. Walt is proud of this heritage. 

Because his dad left his mom at a very early age,  Walt had to help raise his little sister and younger brother. 

Walt is a man uncommon to this world.  His love for his fellow man is pure, with no attachments.   I have seen him on many occasions sacrifice his comfort, enduring much for the sake of rescue work. 

When I asked Walt’s wife what he enjoys doing, she answered, “I don’t know what he likes besides search and rescue.  Search and rescue is his calling; that is who he is when he is not being a husband and a father.” 

‘You Want Walt There’

Walt works hard as a mechanic for the City of Gilbert.  Walt is a member of our technical rescue as well as our ground-pounding units.   

Candace Hesson, vice commander of SSAR said this about Walt: “Walt is one of the calmest, kindest men you will ever meet. He is a joy to work with in the field. 

“Walt’s commitment to others is clear and unwavering. If your loved one is missing; you want Walt there,” recently, while chaperoning a school field trip, one of the boys during a hike had an asthma attack. 

Walt took off his pack and picked up the boy. Walt then ran a mile carrying the boy to medical help.
When asked about Walt, Robert Cooper, commander of SSAR, said, “Walt, as many of this teams members, represents the good in this community; he has unselfish and unquestionable devotion to help others He is a hell of a guy.”

There are still two stories left to finish  — one about the scout troop and one about Larry Hincha and his role in the scout story.  A lot occurred after the team was pulled from the field. 

The search was in no way finished.  That is a whole other story in itself. See you next month.