Missing runner Ashley Laird found
Search-and-rescue crews high-fived each other after finding Dr. Ashley Laird, 37, the Jacksonville runner missing since Friday morning, at the bottom of Rail Trail in Jacksonville's Forest Park Sunday.
Laird was found at 5:30 p.m. by a team of searchers that included her father. The runner and mother of a 5-year-old went running around 9:15 a.m. Friday and never returned. More than 150 volunteers turned up Sunday morning at Jacksonville Elementary to help the family and authorities in the search.
"We were coming to the end of our assignment, and we came around a corner and we looked up, and we saw a lady standing there and we were all surprised," said Rogue Valley Search and Rescue team leader Rick Klimek, "and I said, 'Is that her?' and her father said, 'Ashley!' and he ran to hug her."
Dr. Laird was transported to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center, where she works as an emergency room physician. She was dehydrated and suffered minor bruising and scraping, but appeared to have no severe injuries, according to Jacksonville Police.
Police didn't have any details Sunday night on what led to Laird's disappearance.
"It's amazing," said Jackson County Sgt. Shawn Richards, who had been involved in the search all day. "That's why we do this."
Klimek, a Phoenix resident, had been leading Team 1, as it was called, since Friday. Sunday's assignment led the group through the Forest Creek trails, up Ol' Miner's Trail and back down Rail Trail. They found her close to the road.
Laird is an accomplished ultra-distance runner who won the 2014 American River 50-mile run, according to her family. On her Friday run, Laird had neither a cellphone nor a GPS watch that could assist in tracking her.
But technology turned out to be a key factor in finding her Sunday.
Jacksonville Police Chief David Towe said searchers learned Laird sometimes uses a Garmin GPS watch on her runs, so a search-and-rescue team member looked through her past route history. Seeing that she'd run in the Forest Park area before, Sgt. Richards assigned a search team to that area.
"If it hadn't been for that, we probably would've ran another direction," Towe said, because family members had said Laird was nursing some injuries that made it likely should would have been running on flat roads rather than hilly trails.
Had Laird not been found Sunday, emergency officials were prepared to start scaling back their search efforts, Towe said.
"We had kind of made a determination that if we didn't have a major development by the end of today ... we would have scaled back. Not necessarily pulled the plug, but it would've been a pretty fair reduction from what we'd been doing for the first couple of days."
"I'm so happy, I'm so relieved," said Jenny Hall, a friend of Laird's who searched through the weekend.
"We couldn't believe it," said Klimek.