Nova Scotia

Searchers honour boy's death with special training that could have saved him

Cape Breton Search and Rescue says specialized training will help them find people who might not respond to searcher calls.

James Delorey's 2009 death in the woods of Cape Breton continues to inspire change

Cape Breton Search and Rescue members are briefed on what to expect for an on-foot exercise in Sydney, N.S. (Submitted by Amanda Donovan)

Cape Breton Search and Rescue says specialized training will help them find people who might not respond to searcher calls.

The group of volunteers gathered in Sydney, N.S., last week on the anniversary of the disappearance of seven-year-old James Delorey.

The boy, who had autism, wandered away from his South Bar home on Dec. 5, 2009. Delorey was found two days after he went missing, huddled in thick brush about a kilometre from his home. He died the following day in hospital after suffering from severe hypothermia.

Delorey's mother, Veronica Fraser, is now a maintenance volunteer with Project Lifesaver.

The program uses transmitter bracelets to help find missing people with cognitive conditions such as autism, dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

As part of Fraser's role, she maintains bracelets in the Sydney area.

'He could have been found,' says mom

"If he had one of these transmitters on, he could have been found," said Fraser. "I feel really good knowing that there are people that are going to be saved because of this."

Fraser said her son wandered off in search of a trail he had spotted the day before.

"That's what made him want to go there. And when people wander off there's something they are looking for, there's something they wanted to see and they just have no idea of the danger they are putting themselves in."

It's been 11 years since James Delorey, 7, who had autism, got lost in the woods near his home in South Bar, N.S. (Cape Breton Regional Police)

Fraser finds comfort knowing that something positive came out of her tragedy.

Members of Cape Breton Search and Rescue now keep a regular training regime as part of Project Lifesaver.

Electronic bands can be worn on a child's wrist or ankle. There is a cost to the program, although sponsorship is often available.

Darren MacLeod said he joined CBSAR after the Delorey search.

Project Lifesaver's training was conducted last weekend on the anniversary of Delorey's disappearance. (Submitted by Amanda Donovan)

MacLeod said the Project Lifesaver equipment can reduce searches that would normally take several days to just hours.

"It's very nice to bring a quick and happy ending to those cases," said MacLeod.

"There's no payment except for payment in your heart ... knowing that you're doing it for others, that you're trying to help others, that's a huge reward."

According to Project Lifesaver of Nova Scotia, the number of people with special needs who wander off in the province is increasing.