Determined police officers ensured an elderly man who lost his footing at the top of a ravine did not lose his life over the simple mistake.
On September 20, Drago Ljubicic left his home for a typical day out, meeting friends in High Park and going for lunch. But, after 4 p.m., the 81-year-old man’s wife, Jaka, became concerned he hadn’t returned home and started to look for him on her own. After her own search came up with nothing, she called police as the absence was completely out of character.
Officers from 11 Division set up a command post in High Park and started an extensive grid search that evening.
The following day, members of B platoon, including Sergeants Charles Johnston and Myron Chudoba and Constable Christine Trottier, joined the search that brought in members of the Mounted and Marine Units to scour the park, hoping for the best and prepared for the worst.
“We were on the day shift, so we had daylight in our favour,” said Johnston.
When he located a hat that matched the missing man’s description at the top of a ravine, he knew he was on the right trail.
“To get down the deep gully, I had to go through an entanglement of tall brush, trees and poison ivy,” said Johnston. “As I went deeper into the tangle, I could see a man lying face down in the mud and scrub. When I called his name, he moaned a response.”
Johnston said Ljubicic was extremely exhausted and dehydrated.
“That was one of the hotter days, with temperatures hovering close to 30 degrees Celsius,” he said. “He was in rough shape by the time we got to him.”
He had been walking near the ravine when he lost his footing and tumbled down the hill, where he remained all night.
Ljubicic spent 16 days in hospital to recover from the fall before being released this week.
“I cannot thank enough the work of the police officers in returning my husband to me,” said Jaka Ljubicic. “I am so happy he’s back home.”
Johnston said the octogenarian is in good spirits.
“I spoke with him this week and he’s happy to be back in the comfort of his home,” he said. “Both he and his wife are so grateful that we helped rescue him and they have invited us over for the Christmas holidays to thank us.”
Superintendent Heinz Kuck, unit commander at 11 Division, praised his officers for helping to reunite the couple.
“This is an example of pure persistence and tenacity,” he said. “Almost 33 per cent of High Park is in a deeply forested natural state, making a search extremely difficult. It’s heartwarming to know that our officers never gave up, never relented to the harsh conditions and never relinquished hope to reunite this man with his family.”