Local volunteers praised for help in search for missing Coventry man

Local volunteers praised for help in search for missing Coventry man


Michael Neary, 50, of Coventry. | Courtesy Coventry Police Department

RICHMOND — When it became clear Friday evening that additional resources and a wider net were needed to scour the Big River Management Area for a missing Coventry man, it took only a quick signal over the emergency transmission system to volunteers of the Richmond-Carolina and Hope Valley-Wyoming fire departments for them to spring into action.

By 8 a.m. Saturday morning, a group of volunteers was leaving the Richmond-Carolina Fire Department to join more than 150 other volunteers and emergency response personnel from across Rhode Island in searching the 8,319-acre West Greenwich tract for Michael Neary, 50, who was first reported missing by his wife on Thursday night.

“It was a chance for us to help out and provide the primary search teams with a moment of relief,” said Richmond-Carolina Fire Chief Scott Barber. “Between the two fire departments, we were able to send a team of 12 volunteers to spend the day Saturday assisting the search and providing mutual aid.”

The search for Neary, of 31 Brassie Court in Coventry, was called off at 2 p.m. on Monday afternoon, Rhode Island State Police said, and the five-day effort was unsuccessful in locating him.

In a press release, Rhode Island State Police said Neary’s wife first alerted the Coventry Police Department that her husband was missing when he did not return home Thursday night. His car was located Friday morning near a wooded area off Burnt Sawmill Road in West Greenwich, prompting a search involving more than 150 state and local police, firefighters, rescue workers, K-9 units and volunteers.

“(Volunteers) spent more than 50 hours scouring dozens of acres of woods in the Big River Management Area without results,” said Col. Ann C. Assumpico, superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police.

There is no concern of foul play at this time, state police said, and the investigation continues.

For members of the two local fire departments, taking part in the search was a natural part of the emergency response process. The two agencies were actively involved in the Saturday search effort in particular, the largest effort over the five-day span.

Barber and Justin Lee, chief of the Hope Valley-Wyoming fire department, said volunteers were not required to help, but many came forward anyway because of the strong relationship that the department has established with the agencies directly involved in the search.

Volunteers are trained annually for search efforts, both chiefs explained, and although most response needs are considered “minor” — Lee said the most common missing-person search involves finding a party that lost their way while hiking in the woods and is often resolved with the assistance of just one agency — the departments are often eager to use their training to assist in regional responses.

With regional searches, Barber said volunteer firefighters can provide assistance in a variety of ways, including providing manpower for the physical search, assisting in the distribution of food and water to volunteers, staging a medical-response area or providing medical personnel and more.

“We also try and provide other resources, including GPS technology, digital map systems and more to help make the effort more efficient and effective,” Barber said.

The recent search provided no results, but the two chiefs said oftentimes a larger effort can help provide results that a smaller effort could not. They praised the volunteers, saying their efforts did not go unnoticed by officials across the state.

“As chief, it makes you proud to see the commitment that these men and women are making to serving their community and the state as a whole,” Lee said. “The amount of calls we receive and the amount of training it takes to be prepared is a substantial time commitment. These guys deserve recognition for the ways they step up every single day.”

State and local police are continuing to pursue any additional leads. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Rhode Island State Police Hope Valley Barracks at 401-444-1068.


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