Paxton rescuers use cell phone pings to find lost hiker

PAXTON, Mass. — With daylight fading and no idea where he was, a stranded hiker with one shoe was able to use his cell phone Thursday to call for help and wait for rescuers in the middle of Moore State Park.

“He was deep in the woods, really inaccessible by any roads,” Paxton Fire Chief Michael Pingitore said. “Apparently the gentleman had lost his shoe trying to get out.”

The call for help came in just after 8 p.m, the fire chief said. The 40-year-old hiker was able to use his phone to dial 9-1-1, but couldn’t tell first responders where he was. Investigators used the pings from his cell phone to narrow down the search.

“It was getting real dark real fast,” Pingitore said. “It’s hilly, it’s swampy, it’s not very forgiving.”

Rescuers found the man in a swamp around 9:20 p.m, near the Old Caruth Road trail toward Nanigan Road. He had been alone in the woods for close to eight hours, Pingitore said.

Moore State Park is a 737-acre public recreation area in Worcester County, full of hiking trails and dense woods.

“One of our firefighters took off his boot and put it on [the hiker’s] foot to get him out because they couldn’t get him with a vehicle,” Pingitore said. “They had to walk him out of the field to the ambulance that was waiting.”

The Paxton Police Department, Forestry 1, Massachusetts State Police and Wachusetts Regional Emergency Communications Center assisted in the search operation.

Pingitore said the hiker didn’t go to the hospital and didn’t suffer any injuries. He had hiked in those woods before so he was familiar with the area, but at some point took a wrong turn and lost his way.

“It just goes to show you even if you’re familiar with an area like that, it’s easy to get turned around,” Paxton Sgt. Will Recos said. “Once you get turned around you get a little panicked, sometimes that is enough to spin you around.”

“He was okay, probably a little shaken up, exhausted from what the guys told me,” Pingitore said.