Trained search and rescue personnel and community volunteers prepared Friday for a large-scale search scheduled to take place on Saturday and Sunday for missing Greenfield 18-year-old Madison Bell, according to Andrew Surritt III, chief and founder of South Salem-based Rescue 101 Search and Rescue.
Rescue 101 personnel were joined by personnel from the Ohio chapter of Texas Equusearch Mounted Search and Recovery Team, a search and rescue organization comprising volunteers with various expertise including experienced horse owners, as well as the FBI and the U.S. 23 Pipeline Major Crimes Task Force, a task force that includes local, regional, state and federal officials, EMT and trained Rescue 101 volunteer Jeff Liston told The Times-Gazette.
Bell has been missing since Sunday morning when she reportedly left her home to go to a tanning appointment.
“The closest things like this have happened is the missing girls in Chillicothe. Usually, stuff like this happens in Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati — your big cities,” Liston said. “This search took off. I’ve never seen anything this big. We set up Sunday night at 6:30; Monday morning, people just started walking in and asking, ‘Hey, what can we do?’ From there, it’s just snowballed.”
Surritt estimates that between 500 and 600 volunteers have helped with the search since it began on Sunday, May 17.
Rescue 101 limited search operations to trained personnel on Thursday as a result of flooding caused by rainfall, Surritt said.
Volunteers from the community with no previous search and rescue training may participate in what Surritt referred to as a “large-scale search,” which will take place on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Those who would like to assist in the search should meet at the Madison Township building, located at 12646 Centerfield Rd. outside Greenfield.
All community volunteers without previous search and rescue experience will be briefed on how to search, what to look for, and what to do if they find something, Surritt said.
According to “Bring Maddie Bell Home” Facebook group administrator Brandi Seely, volunteers should meet at 8 a.m. to sign in. The search will begin around 9 a.m., and searchers will work until around 9 p.m. Searchers will be provided with lunch and dinner.
Searchers must be 18 or older and must present a valid ID.
Those who plan to assist with the search either both days should sign up prior to the searches to allow Rescue 101 to plan.
According to an administrator from the “Bring Maddie Bell Home” Facebook page, which Rescue 101 created to help share information related to the search for Bell, the search effort could still use donations of flashlights and batteries. Those with items to donate should bring them to 12646 Centerfield Rd.
Meanwhile, volunteers worked at the Good Shepherd Church outside Greenfield to prepare food for Saturday and Sunday’s searchers.
“I put a quasi-logistics team together with the help of locals, and they went out and got donations,” Surritt said. “When the searchers come in, we’re going to have lunch and dinner packed for them. That way, once they’re out in the field, they’re out all day and don’t have to come back to get lunch or dinner. They’ve done a great job as far as pulling that together.”
On Friday, volunteer Bonnie Hall told The Times-Gazette that she and other volunteers were working to prepare 2,000 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and other items for those participating in the large-scale search over the weekend.
Tati Weaks, who’s serving as volunteer food coordinator for the search effort, said the effort began with a few boxes of granola bars and a couple cases of water. Since then, community members have donated everything from coolers and ice to large totes full of loaves of bread and warm meals like pizza and barbecue.
“It’s ‘we’ not ‘I,’” Weaks said. “It’s every little tiny thing anyone does.”
In a Friday Facebook post, Bell’s parents, Bill Bell and Melissa Montavon, thanked all those who have been working to find Bell but requested that those creating negative posts in Facebook groups and those sending messages and theories regarding Bell’s disappearance see the situation from their perspective.
“I’d give my life up today to have her home safe where she belongs. So, please those who are posting negative things, put yourself in our shoes and how we all feel right now and understand how hurtful these words are. Anyone who lives here knows how much love we have for Maddie. Please just pray and be positive and leave the detective work up to the trained authorities,” the post said.
“At approximately 10 a.m., [Bell] told her mom she was going tanning, left her residence to go to the Country Corner Market to go tanning, and never made it there,” Surritt said in a previous interview. “After she was gone for about an hour, her mom tried to reach out to her and was unable to get a hold of her. When they found her car at the church without her in it, that’s when they contacted law enforcement.”
Bell’s car was found at the Good Shepherd Church, located near the corner of SR 28 and Centerfield Road, a few hundred feet from Country Corner Market. According to Bell’s mother, Melissa Montavon, her daughter’s keys were still in the ignition, the car was unlocked, and the windows were up. Bell’s phone, as well as the coins and paper money in the change compartment, were still in her car.
Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera released a poster Thursday evening showing a person of interest and a car who may be related to Bell’s disappearance. He said anonymous tips can be reported to Southern Ohio Crime Stoppers by going to FB@SouthernOhioCrimeStoppers and clicking on the “use app” button. Tips can also be made through www.pstips.com or by calling 800-222-TIPS. Barrera said tips that lead to the whereabouts of Bell may be eligible for a reward.
According to a missing person report, Madison Noel Bell is Caucasian, stands 5-7 and weighs around 125 pounds. She has brown, shoulder-length hair and brown eyes, though she may be wearing blue or gray cosmetic contact lenses. She also has tape-in hair extensions and a left nostril piercing.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.