When conducting aerial searches in helicopters and airplanes, the view looking over forests and lakes is never 100 percent vertical. In a paraglider, the operator can look straight down, which often makes all the difference in search and rescue operations.
That’s why a group of about five paragliders, including two from Johnson City, traveled to West Tennessee Sunday to conduct an aerial search for Holly Bobo, the 20-year-old nursing student who is believed to have been abducted from her home near Parsons in April.
The Bobo family contacted Dave Dubin, founder of Parasearchers.com, last week in order to utilize the specialized aircraft to search for anything that might help in finding their daughter.
Using the power-paragliders, which Dubin said have the ability to fly low and slow, the pilots were able to cover about five to 10 square miles of territory over the course of two days in areas that have been problematic for other rescue crews.
“We get vertical views of bodies of water, we can look in between corn rows and really dense woods. If we fly over the treetops, we can see the bottom of really thick foliage,” Dubin said Monday.
Bobo vanished April 13 after her brother said he saw her being led into the woods by a man dressed in hunting camouflage. Hundreds of volunteers searched the heavily wooded area around the home in the weeks following Bobo’s disappearance, but authorities have not arrested anyone or identified a suspect. A small amount of blood was found outside the home.
Helping families in times of crisis is the reason why Dubin formed Parasearchers. When he was contacted by the Bobos, he said he felt compelled to help any way he could.
“I have a daughter as well, and it really hit home to think about the anguish that those folks are going through. It’s been three months and they’ve quit their jobs. This is the only thing they can think of day and night, so it just really touches me,” he said. “I can feel Mrs. Bobo’s pain, and for some reason it has an emotional tie to me that I can’t quite explain.”
While Dubin couldn’t talk about the specifics of what the two-day search uncovered, he did say the group spotted some things that could end up assisting with the search.
Dubin said he’s traveling back to Parsons Wednesday to go over the findings with the Bobo family and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and he plans on continuing the search for Bobo as long as he can.
“I want to see this through. We’ll probably search once a week or more and when the leaves fall, that’s when we’ll really hit it hard. As soon as the leaves fall, we’ll try to get a very large group up there and see if we can help out that way,” he said.
A TBI spokeswoman said tips are still coming in to their hotline, 1-800-TBI-FIND, but they aren’t receiving as many as in the beginning of the investigation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.