Search in southern Sampson continues


GARLAND — A massive manhunt for a missing Garland man officially entered into Day 3 Thursday afternoon, with an extensive search and rescue mission proving unsuccessful to this point.

It extended through the night Wednesday and continued all day Thursday, as more and more agencies traveled in from surrounding counties to assist in the search for William Earl Powell, 72. That search was again expected to go through the night Thursday and into Friday.

“We’ve had boats, aircraft, everyone that we can get here to search — state, regional and in the area,” Capt. Eric Pope said late Thursday afternoon. “It’s still going.”

The search was initiated shortly after 1:15 p.m. Tuesday when the Sampson County E-911 center received a report of a missing person off of Birdy Lane in Garland.

Powell, known by most of his neighbors as “Willie,” resides at 85 Birdy Lane. Powell suffers from dementia and has a history of wandering off from his residence, authorities said. He was last seen wearing a white T-shirt, grey denim pants and brown slip-on loafers. Powell stands about 6 feet 1 inch tall and weighs approximately 180 pounds. He has green eyes.

The Sampson County Sheriff’s Office and Sampson County Emergency Management have coordinated the search and rescue mission for Powell. The local agencies were being assisted by emergency service crews from Wayne, Bladen, Pender, Brunswick and Johnston counties, among many other county and state emergency resources.

Pope said there have been “a couple dozen” agencies involved in the search since Tuesday afternoon.

That has included deputies and others from various organizations on ATVs, Search and Rescue teams scouring the southern part of the county, including rivers that run in and around Garland. Pope said no divers have been deployed as of yet. Assistance has also been received from the N.C. Highway Patrol, Civil Air Patrol and the Southeastern North Carolina AirBorne Law Enforcement (SABLE) out of Wilmington.

The SABLE program is a regional, multi-agency effort between the Wilmington Police Department, Leland Police Department and the Pender County Sheriff’s Department.

“We’ve got people coming from all across the state to help us,” Pope has said

To this point, the search area has spanned the town of Garland and wooded areas south of Garland, extending out from there. Pope said earlier this week that search teams had broken the area into quadrants to facilitate the search for Powell.

“We’ve got it split into quadrants and we have crews searching and clearing each quadrant,” Pope pointed out.

The sheriff’s captain said Thursday that Sampson County authorities will continue to evaluate the progress of the mission if Powell is still missing Friday.

“We certainly will have to evaluate the objective of the search,” said Pope, “and consider a number of factors.”