Man lost in Harbison turns up naked near jail

jmonk@thestate.comApril 21, 2013 

— A man in his late teens or early 20s who got lost after having a bad reaction from an LSD drug trip in Harbison State Forest was found at twilight Sunday.

Some 40 law enforcement officers, medics and firefighters — including a SLED helicopter and bloodhound tracking team — had spent much of Sunday afternoon searching for him and were ready to halt the search for the night when he was found..

“He stumbled naked on to the (S.C.) Department of Corrections property, which adjoins Harbison, and they gave him a blanket,” said Scott Hawkins, S.C. Department of Forestry spokesman. The man was then taken to Palmetto Richland.

The man’s clothes had been found earlier in shallow water of the Broad River, which borders the forest, and officials feared he had drowned.

“We had a (S.C.) Department of Resources dive team ready to begin recovery efforts in the morning,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins said the lost man was with three others, all of whom apparently took LSD.

Officials will be drawing up warrants charging all four with taking illegal substances in a state forest, he said.

“We are just glad he was found alive,” Hawkins said.

Nonetheless, he said the search — with the helicopter and dog team handlers and gasoline for vehicles — was costly in time and money.

“I don’t know if we’ll ever get a dollar figure,” Hawkins said. “But this stuff doesn’t come cheap.”

The four men have not yet been identified. Hawkins said one was from Aiken and three were from the Midlands.

The helicopter searching for the lost man was equipped with infrared devices that scan the ground for differences in a person’s body heat and the surrounding environment. That technology was used Friday night in Massachusetts in helping ascertain the location of the hiding terrorist suspect in the Boston marathon bombing case.

Besides the Forestry Commission, SLED and DNR, other agencies on the scene included Columbia police and fire departments and Richland County Emergency Medical Services.

Had the young man still been out there, Hawkins said, he would have had a rough night naked in the forest. “Temperatures were going down in the 40s, and the dangers of hypothermia were real,” he said.

The 2,137-acre forest, nine miles northwest of downtown Columbia, has more than 30 miles of roads and trails. It is nearly all woodland. The forest is off Broad River Road, between I-26 and the Broad River.

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