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Rescue team offers free services statewide

The Kelly Morris search led to the creation of the North Carolina Search and Rescue earlier this month. The all-volunteer group is available to law enforcement across the state at no charge.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The search for Granville County mother, Kelly Morris hasn’t turned up any new leads in her disappearance, but it hasn’t been unsuccessful either.

Search and rescue personnel, volunteering their time in the Morris search, identified the need for a team that can offer rapid response, as well as digital and cellular forensic capabilities, to help searches anywhere in the state.

North Carolina Search and Rescue was formed as a result.

“They get a free service at a time when budgets are tight. It’s overwhelming, the amount of manpower for us to pull 30, 40, 50 people together at one time. It’s just a phone call away,” said Nathan Huey, the CEO of N.C. Search and Rescue.

The group consists of many former law enforcement officers, ex-military, Coast Guard personnel and others, N.C. Search and Rescue’s Mike Craig said.

They can pull together underwater searching equipment, cadaver dogs, low-flying aircraft, computer and cell phone tracking abilities, all within a matter of hours.

Team member Allan Frazier owns a boat repair shop in Franklinton. He and all the others volunteer their time to the effort.

Frazier said the personal gratification of finding a missing person or wanted fugitive is payment enough. He also likes letting his son know that ”there’s more to life than just yourself.”

In addition to expertise, the group applies the latest technology.

“We’re going to be able to walk in with computer forensics and cell phone forensic tools – the same thing the SBI uses and the FBI uses,” said Leslie Denton, who works in the digital forensics division.

Telecommunications expert Ben Levitan helped set up the bugging operation that brought down Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. He can think of no better way to spend his retirement than being part of this team.

Levitan is developing a phone that will have a touch-screen display, camera and a push-to-talk feature.

“Once I get these into the hands of the search and rescue team, they all will have a lot less equipment to run around with,” Levitan said.

The team is a full-scale operation that is hoping to help reunite families. Craig said the goal is to put a dent in the number of missing persons in the state.

“Giving life back is the most important gift you can give somebody,” Craig said. “If that’s not good enough of a payoff for you, there’s something seriously wrong with you.”

Now, North Carolina Search and Rescue is working a missing person's case in Australia at the request of an Indiana man’s family.


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