Richard Jones, 69, talks to reporters in his Sequim-area home Monday after being rescued from his car earlier that morning. He was trapped in his car for five days. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Richard Jones, 69, talks to reporters in his Sequim-area home Monday after being rescued from his car earlier that morning. He was trapped in his car for five days. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Clallam sheriff details missing person response after man was trapped in car for five days

SEQUIM — A 69-year-old Sunland man was trapped in his car on the side of an embankment for five days, leading some members of the public to ask why they weren’t informed.

Richard Jones told the Peninsula Daily News at his home Monday he suffered for five days trapped in his car after he drove off the road into thick brush last Wednesday night.

He was found by a man walking a dog on Sequim-Dungeness Way on Monday morning and rescued by first responders.

His car, about 20 feet down an embankment surrounded by brush, was not easily visible from the road.

His wife reported him missing Wednesday after he didn’t come back home, said Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict.

Benedict said Tuesday he is satisfied in how his department, which sees some 150 missing persons reports annually, handled the report.

He said his office had no information that would have indicated Jones was in trouble.

His office typically goes to the public when a missing person has known memory issues or might not be fully cognizant, Benedict said.

“In this case, there was no reason to believe he had dementia or that he didn’t leave under his own desires,” he said.

“It’s a judgment call, and there isn’t a policy that says go to the public.”

The report prompted deputies to retrace the route Jones likely took and the report was added to a state missing persons database, he said.

Jones has a cellphone but did not take it with him when he left home, Benedict said.

“We always consider going public with some of these,” he said. “In this case, we probably would have in another few days.”

In missing persons cases under similar circumstances, the person is typically found within 24 to 48 hours and the public is never made aware the person was missing, he said.

“Keep in mind that we have many times where people choose to go missing,” he said. “The vast majority of people will show up, and some might not enjoy the notoriety of being on the front page if they just wanted a little space.”

If Jones had been driving around the state, a camera could have picked up his license plate number and authorities could have found him, Benedict said, using the cameras at the Tacoma Narrows bridges as an example.

There are no such cameras in Clallam County, he said.

In this case, a Silver Alert, similar to an Amber Alert, could not have been issued, Benedict said.

“You have to have some nexus that they are in danger,” he said. “There has to be some indication the person didn’t leave of their own free will, were abducted or have some kind of memory issues or are otherwise vulnerable.”

Because of where Jones’ vehicle ended up — completely surrounded in brush down an embankment — Benedict said going public likely wouldn’t have made a difference.

“I drove by and I just couldn’t believe it,” he said. “Unless you are up and over it, you just don’t see it.”

He said even the owner of the property was stunned to hear Jones was trapped on their property.

“We’re very fortunate someone discovered him and that he was so resilient,” Benedict said.

The sheriff’s office had no way to know he was trapped on an embankment, Benedict said.

“We don’t know what we don’t know,” he said.

Sgt. Sean Madison of the Sequim Police Department said the sheriff’s office did not ask the police department to help search.

Officers did get Jones’ description and a description of his car but didn’t proactively search for him.

“That’s normally the way things work,” Madison said. “Until we have some place to look, the best thing I could do is make officers aware.”

Madison said often, the public already knows about a missing person because of social media, not because law enforcement went public with a case.

________

Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

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