Omaha Police Helicopter Helps Rescue Stranded Driver - FOX 42: Omaha News, Sports and Weather; kptm.com |

Omaha Police Helicopter Helps Rescue Stranded Driver

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By:  Melina Matthes
MMatthes@kptm.com

OMAHA (kptm) - An Omaha woman was arrested after losing control on a Washington county highway and crashing her car in a ditch. 

When authorities found her, they said she had been drinking and driving.

Police said 35-year-old Michelle Lovercheck was sent to jail for her 3rd offense DUI.

But get this; she's the one that called for help.  Police said after she crashed her car she was confused and had no idea where she was.  Several law enforcement agencies searched for her, but couldn't find her. 

Fox 42 News spoke with the local heroes who used technology to uncover where she was.  

It was zero degrees. 

The woman told authorities she was scared of freezing to death. 

She was lost and disoriented and her phone wouldn't work.  "The situation with the weather and not knowing if there's injury during the accident was deteriorating and she needed to be found," Officer Jason Messerschmidt said.

It was pitch black along highway 75. 

Troopers and deputies searched frantically, but couldn't see her.  Finally a call was made to ABLE 1, Omaha's police helicopter.  "We had to use the infrared camera out on highway 75 in rural Washington County.  It's pretty dark so there's not a lot of ambient light," Messerschmidt said.

"I was flying when Officer Messerschmidt was running the FLIR.  I could not even see the highway 75, so I was just watching his FLIR screen as he was traveling along 75 and that's how I knew which direction to fly, and I was just following the curves of the road.  It was completely black in Washington County last night," Officer Matt Baughman said.

And that infrared camera not only helped the pilots see the road it also spotted the stranded driver.  "Without that FLIR we would not have found that vehicle period."

While you can't make out the details of a person's body on the infrared camera, the pilots can at least see a human figure, even the heat from a person's hand prints while show up on pavement.  "We can pick up small animals, we can go as far as seeing footprints in the ground when the snow is compacted it creates a minute amount of friction which creates a little bit of heat as well as it changes the density of the snow and we can pick up those differences on the infrared from a thousand feet away," Messerschmidt said.

With a little luck and the help of this infrared technology.  The pilots of OPD ABLE 1 say they can pretty much find anything.  "Obviously we're a great tool to have around.  Winter brings a whole different set of challenges to just commuting and outdoor activities and the really nice thing is if you do get yourself into trouble and Omaha's pretty populated, if you do, we have the ability to go out and find you," Baughman said.

Officer Messerschmidt said one way you can help police find you quicker is by leaving your lights on.  It's easier for them to see you and increases your chances of a passerby noticing you.  

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