About 75 trained rescuers from 14 agencies in Northwestern Pennsylvania did their best to find a missing North Warren man on Saturday.
They searched along and on the Conewango Creek and Allegheny River. They turned up nothing definitive.
Dan Wolboldt, a 69-year-old North Warren resident and Scoutmaster of North Warren Boy Scout Troop 13, was last seen near his home on Friday, March 22.
His vehicle, watch, wallet, cellphone, pager and medication were left at home, according to materials given to searchers.
While a general search by water, land and air was conducted the first week after Wolboldt’s disappearance, Saturday’s effort was the largest scale to date.
The search was coordinated by Conewango Township Police, and Glade Township and North Warren volunteer fire departments. It began with a briefing at 9 a.m. Their efforts concluded with a debriefing shortly before 5 p.m.
Although Wolboldt is well-known throughout Warren County as a scoutmaster and pastor, members of several of the involved agencies were from outside the county. Each participant received a photo and a list of identifying characteristics before leaving the North Warren Fire Hall to begin the search.
They also received a warning from Glade Chief Mike Noe, who conducted the briefing. “If you’re within 10 feet of a body of water, you must have a PFD (personal flotation device) on your body,” Noe said. “I don’t need anybody falling in this water.”
The water temperature in the Allegheny and Conewango rivers were 37 and 35 degrees, respectively.
“If a person were to fall into the water at the current conditions, they would have approximately 10 minutes of purposeful movement followed by 45 minutes uncoordinated shivering and movement before unconsciousness occurs,” Noe explained.
The Conewango River has an average flow rate of about 2,100 cubic feet per second, he said. “It only takes approximately 12 inches of water flowing at 2,000 cubic feet per second to lift and move a standard-sized four-door family car.”
“The flow on March 23 was 1,600 cubic feet per second,” Noe said.
Glade and other departments have specialized equipment for searching in water, but conditions in the creek and river were not ideal for the use of that equipment. “We are using boats, a sidescan sonar and a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to search,” Noe said. “The current, depth and clarity are causing the challenges. The ROV, that provides live video, works really well in the calm waters. The thrusters are not strong enough to overcome the current flow to search the channel. The sidescan sonar needs 3 to 4 feet or more of depth to function properly.”
“These challenges don’t prevent the search efforts, just slow it down,” he said.
Several other high-sensitivity instruments were part of Saturday’s efforts. The Northwestern Pennsylvania Canine Search and Rescue team brought four specialized dogs to the search. All four are trained to find human scents. Two of those are specially trained to search while in boats. The dogs alerted a few times during the search, but there was no way to be certain if the alerts were specific to Wolboldt. No further evidence was found.
“A dog’s nose is multiple times better than a human’s,” team member Lori Johnson said.
The nonprofit, volunteer organization has about 15 human members and 12 dogs ages five months through seven years trained in whatever type of searching they show an interest and aptitude for. The members live throughout Northwestern Pennsylvania and can be called in to aid in searches like Saturday’s.
In all, 14 agencies were involved: Conewango Township Police Department, North Warren Volunteer Fire Department, Glade Volunteer Fire Department, Youngsville Volunteer Fire Department rehab trailer, Warren County Sheriff’s Office, EmergyCare, American Red Cross, Warren County Emergency Management Agency, Chief Cornplanter Council (whose representative was not a trained rescuer and did not participate in the search), Northwest Pennsylvania Canine Search and Rescue out of Erie, Western Regional Pennsylvania State Police Marine Unit from Erie, Lake City Fire Company Water Rescue Team of Erie County, Blooming Valley Fire Department Water Rescue of Crawford County, and Crawford County SCUBA Team.
Conewango Township Police Officer Charlie Andersen said the investigation continues and anyone with information is asked to contact Conewango Township Police.