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Drone company discusses aiding in search for missing man who was later found dead

WATERVLIET, Mich. -- The search for Justin Brown, the man who went missing October 13 from a Saugatuck bar last week, ended on Monday after his body was found in the Kalamazoo River.

And while the search involved police, friends and loved ones, a drone company was also involved.

Staffers with the Great Lakes Drone Company say sometimes the best view to search for a missing person is from air or under the water, and that's exactly why they help search and rescue teams in smaller communities that may not have access to such tools.

Both types of drones are important resources for search and rescue missions, said Matt Quinn, one of those staffers.

“We have resources and tools that a lot of departments don’t have,” Quinn said. In the search for Brown, those tools mostly consisted of those that can search the bottom of a river.

That was the main reason they answered Allegan County’s call seeking help finding Brown. “If we’re available and an agency calls us -- whether it’s the fire department, a law enforcement agency -- they can call us. We’ll come out and help,” Quinn said.

“When you look at deploying an underwater team, you look at a couple things," Quinn said. “We can typically clear things a lot quicker than a dive team can. But obviously, we’re not putting anyone in the water, we’re not putting anyone at risk.”

Right now, the underwater drone isn’t designed to work in rivers, which made the search for Brown more complicated. But Quinn said his company is a part of a research project so that these valuable tools can continue to improve.

Another motivation for the company to help is more personal. “Every single person that has worked for us, that’s helped fly these different missions, all look at it the same way: If it was there was one their family members we’d want to be out there too,” he said.

Brown was last seen walking out of the Coral Gables bar with two women and later spotted walking alone towards the docks. No further information has been released.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office at 269-673-0500, or Silent Observer at 1-800-554-3633.


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