Morris County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit Locates ’Missing’ Driver in Kinnelon Park

Morris County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Section Detective John Granato successfully teamed with the Morris County Park Police to locate a man who fell asleep off a hiking trail in the densely-wooded Silas Condict Park in Kinnelon.

Detective Granato and his K-9 partner Spike, a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois and German Shepherd mix, were requested by the Park Police to assist in a search for the owner of a vehicle that was seen in a Silas Condict Park parking lot about an hour after the Morris County-owned park named for a Revolutionary War patriot had closed for the day.

Park Police Officer Anthony Brunone spotted the vehicle the night of July 9 while making a security check at the park.

The scenario that unfolded – the discovery of a car, the missing operator, personal items left in the vehicle – mirrored a simulated search and rescue training operation jointly conducted on June 26 by the Morris County Sheriff’s Office and the Morris County Park Police.

Detective Granato responded to the park around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday with K-9 Spike, who scouted the area for nearly 90 minutes and did not locate a trail of human scent.

Close to 1 a.m. on Wednesday, July 10th, Detective Granato let Spike take a rest as Spike had already responded to two others calls – a missing juvenile and a burglary.

Detective Granato and Morris County Park Police Officer Bryan Petitt trekked up a dirt trail that hadn’t previously been searched.

They then saw indications that the missing driver had been on the trail and continued their search with the aid of flashlights.

Off one side of the trail is a sixty foot drop down to a pond. On another side of the trail, about 20 feet down, Detective Granato said, he noticed a pair of feet and pants in his flashlight beam. He yelled out the man’s name but received no reply.

Detective Granato shouted again and saw the man – later identified as the adult operator of the vehicle – startle awake.

Detective Granato said that he and Officer Petitt assisted the uninjured man out of the wooded nook he had selected as a nap site, up the incline to the trail, and then to the parking lot.

The located driver told the officers he went to the park to watch the sunset and fell asleep, never realizing how late it had gotten.

Morris County Park Police Lieutenant Chris List said the driver was examined by the Kinnelon Emergency Medical Squad and driven home.

Detective Granato said he is grateful the driver was not hurt, as he might have been had he tried to leave the park in the dark and accidentally tumbled down a hill into the pond.

“This search that ended happily is a perfect example of the seamless, mutual aid relationship the Morris County Sheriff’s Office has with the Morris County Park Police. While K-9 Spike was resting, the officers showed their concern by continuing their search until the driver was found,” Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon said.

“This was great team work,” Lieutenant List said. Lieutenant List said the search at Silas Condict Park was the second of the day for the Morris County Park Police. Earlier on Tuesday, they received a cell phone call from an injured bicyclist at another county-owned park.

The bicyclist was found and transported to safety by Morris County Park Police Officers using ATVs and a rescue trailer, Lieutenant List said.