Drone flyer finds missing vulnerable girl in police search

By Kim Pilling, PA

An amateur drone flyer who helped police find a vulnerable teenage girl in a frantic search has received a commendation.

The 14-year-old had been missing from home for more than 15 hours when officers received intelligence that she might be near Irlam Locks on the Manchester Ship Canal.

When officers arrived at the locks they came across Michael Hooper, 59, who was flying his drone on the towpath and they shrewdly sought his aerial assistance.

As the National Police Air Service and the Drone Unit was unavailable, Mr Hooper was provided with a description of the teenager and police continued their search of the area.

Drone flyer Michael Hooper helped find missing girl
Drone flyer Michael Hooper commended by Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins (Greater Manchester Police/PA)

Mr Hooper sprang into action and a short time later he managed to trace the girl who was sitting behind trees on the bankside and was hidden from sight at ground level.

He called the police and kept her within his sights until the officers approached and then led her away from the waterside and returned her safe and well to her worried parents.

Mr Hooper has been rewarded by Greater Manchester Police for his actions last August with a Chief Constable’s Citizen’s Commendation Award.

Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said: “Without Michael’s assistance with the aerial search, officers would have had no idea the girl was there and the search would have been much more challenging.

“It was a cold day with a strong wind and it was getting dark. The girl had been sitting incredibly close to freezing water. The risk to her life was extremely high and only increasing.

“Michael’s diligence, skill and generosity with his time, bridged a vital gap in air support resourcing.”

A modest Mr Hooper said: “To be honest, it was a stroke of luck. All I did was fly the drone along the side of the canal. I was just really glad that we managed to find the girl.

“I actually feel quite embarrassed receiving the award as it was just something that was done by reaction – something that anyone else would have done. Despite being embarrassed, I have placed my award on my desk in my office.”