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In its first search and rescue mission, drone helps locate missing Bibb Co. teen

On Friday, one of their drones got its first call to help in a search and rescue mission going on in Bibb County. Authorities were looking for 13-year-old Samuel Haiden Simmons in West Blocton.

McCalla Fire and Rescue has two drones that they have used for fire investigations for the past year and a half.

On Friday, one of their drones got its first call to help in a search and rescue mission going on in Bibb County. Authorities were looking for 13-year-old Samuel Haiden Simmons in West Blocton.

West Blocton requested mutual aid from McCalla early in the afternoon. McCalla decided to employ their drone and six-wheeled ATV.

When they arrived, they got to the staging area to get their mission details, and about an hour later, they did their first flight in an area where dogs were doing a secondary search.

Firefighter and licensed drone pilot, Jay Zilinskas said someone mentioned to them there was a lake on the other side of the road that had been looked at before, but there was a good chance that Simmons was there. The group had enough battery life on the drone, and they decided to fly it over there.

A few minutes later, they spotted Simmons.

"When we initially saw the boy, or what we thought was something down there, we were not sure," Zilinskas said. "We thought it was a sheriff's deputy doing searches. I think I was at an altitude of 200 feet when we initially saw him. I descended down to about 75 feet, and I maintained that altitude and zoomed in a little bit. Once we did that, we were able to identify his clothing, at which time, we went ahead and notified the other search personnel to make contact."

Bibb County Sheriff Jody Wade said a dog tracking team was also used and the boy "is in good health."

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