Detective Darren Hearitt’s assignment on Monday morning was a missing person case.
79-year-old Harold Roberts was last seen Friday along the Rails To Trails Bike Path in Tonawanda.
Roberts was thin. 130 pounds stretched over a six-foot frame. And he had Alzheimer's and dementia.
”An individual of his age, 79 years old with reported cognitive issues, somebody would have stumbled across him in the community and that’s usually how these things come to a close,” said Hearitt.
But no sighting since Friday. So, Hearitt went back to the man who last saw Roberts. It was a man who lived near the trail, Ed Kirbis.
Kirbis has seen Roberts sitting near the trail and asked how he was doing. Roberts said he lived nearby and exchanged a greeting with a passing cyclist. Kirby figured the man would be fine.
Then he went home and saw the news reports that Roberts was missing.
“I felt so bad. It was like I kinda left him out there,” said Kirbis.
When approached by Detective Hearitt on Tuesday, the two set-off to search a wooded area off the trail where kids hang out.
A hundred yards in, near a log, Kirbis thought he saw something.
“Looked like his coat. I told (Detective Hearitt) that was, would be the color of his coat and he must have moved his arm.”
Twenty yards back, there was Roberts, dehydrated and disoriented, but alive.
Hearitt said: “As I moved closer I could see he was still with us and that was very comforting, and very exhilarating that he was in a positive state of mind...and we could get him some help and hopefully get him back to recovery.”
Roberts was taken to Kenmore Mercy Hospital. We are told he is still there being treated.
Alive. After four days, probably without any food or water and sleeping outside for four sticky summer nights.
A happy ending, thanks to a determined police detective and concerned citizen eager to help.