Cullman Police aviators commended for finding lost hikers

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Cullman Police Department pilots, officer Matt Dean and Captain Gene Bates, receive a standing ovation at Monday’s Cullman City Council meeting. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Cullman Police Department (CPD) aviation division pilots Captain Gene Bates and Officer Matt Dean on Monday evening received commendations during the Cullman City Council meeting.  The two responded to a mutual aid request from authorities in Winston County to assist in locating two missing hikers in the Bankhead National Forest on May 8. Using an infrared camera system in their two-hour mission, they located both hikers, one of whom was injured, and remained over the site to direct ground searchers to their location.  

The search was recorded, and excerpts from the video were shown to the council and audience at Monday’s meeting.

CPD Chief Kenny Culpepper read a letter from Winston County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Brian Kirkpatrick, written the day after the incident.  

The letter read, in part: “I’d like to express my thanks to you, the police department, and the City of Cullman, for allowing your pilots to fly search and rescue for us on 4/6/2019 and 5/8/2019.  In April, we were not successful, but last night, we were. And we could not have accomplished it without your department’s assistance.

“We had impending severe weather approaching last night, and if it was not for your pilots, we would have never located the two lost hikers.  Your pilots talked the ground crews in, and remained on station until the ground crews located the two and started out with them.”

Councilman and Public Safety Committee Chairman Andy Page presented the pilots certificates of commendation.

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Councilman Andy Page shakes Officer Matt Dean’s hand as he reads his commendation.

Captain Gene Bates receives his commendation from Councilman Andy Page.
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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com