Search for Acosta continues today in Columbia after two weeks missing
By: Darrell Todd Maurina
Posted: Saturday, June 12, 2010 12:40 pm
COLUMBIA, Mo. (June 12, 2010) — Despite dark skies and expectations of rain, dozens of searchers are combing Columbia’s downtown streets today as well as rugged bluffs and forested valleys, hoping to find a Fort Leonard Wood civilian employee who’s been missing now for two weeks.
Eddie Acosta, 45, of Laquey, was taken from his worksite at Fort Leonard Wood with stroke-like symptoms on May 28, transported to General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital, and then transferred by ambulance to University Hospital in Columbia for emergency treatment.
While he arrived via ambulance, he walked out of the hospital on his own without a car or any other transportation back to the Fort Leonard Wood area. He told friends that his cell phone battery was dying and he’d call them back when he found a place to stay for the night until they could pick him up in the morning. However, he never called his friends back and hasn’t been seen since leaving a hotel lobby near the hospital, where he decided against getting a room. Some reports indicate he may have planned to stay overnight at the Veterans Administration hospital lobby, but there’s no record of him being there.
Tim Minarik, another Fort Leonard Wood civilian employee who is helping head up the efforts to find Acosta, said searchers have little to go on.
“Every hour, every day that passes makes it more difficult; the fact that we have not had a confirmed sighting since the night he disappeared makes it that much difficult,” Minarik said. “We still don’t know if something happened to Eddie, if the medical condition he came to the hospital for worsened, we don’t know if he got injured, we don’t know if he just up and disappeared of his own free will … There are so many questions that we can’t get answers to and that makes everything so much more difficult.”
Minarik said today’s search will focus on a large area in the southeast corner of Columbia around the hospital near Rock Quarry Road and Old Route 63 between Stadium Boulevard and AC Highway.
As the name of Rock Quarry Road indicates, searching the area won’t be easy.
“The biggest challenges that we are going to face doing the search today are terrain. There are areas where if you walk off the road, 10 feet off the roads there may be a sheer drop of 30 or 40 or 60 feet. If you are not aware of the terrain, you could literally walk off the cliff,” Minarik said.
Tough terrain has been an ongoing problem in the search. On Wednesday, the Columbia Police Department organized a search with police working dogs, both tracker dogs trained to search for specific people and cadaver dogs trained to search for bodies.
“They searched the last known location and the projected direction that he would have travelled,” Minarik said. “Boone County Fire Protection District Task Force One came out and searched the most dangerous cliffs and bluffs in the general area of where he was last seen, but the search by the officers on Wednesday didn’t come up with anything.”
Today’s search won’t deal with the most dangerous locations but it will still be difficult.
“We are taking our most experienced people and making them search leaders. The people with a military background or who were on search operations before, we are giving them out most difficult operations,” Minarik said.
Minarik is a former Marine and Acosta was retired from the Army. The military connection has helped recruit volunteer searchers and especially those with a specialized background, he said.
“We have former MPs, we have former special forces, we have a variety of military occupational specialties represented with the volunteers coming up here. Some of them are school-trained to conduct search and rescues, some of them are not school-trained but they are experienced because they’ve been on search and rescue before,” Minarik said.
“One of the biggest benefits of having military experience out here with the terrain we are dealing with is they know how to read maps,” Minarik said. “It’s a lot different when you are walking around the woods and have bluffs and cliffs and obstacles. To them, this is second nature; this is what they were trained on.”
However, there’s also a role for those without a specialized search background.
“My understanding is a lot of people are coming up for whom physically walking through the woods and rough terrain may not be the best for them, but they still want to help Eddie, so we are going to take those people and saturate the downtown area and see if the transient population may have seen Eddie,” Minarik said.
Acosta was an active member of the local Shrine Club and numerous Masons are helping in the search, as well as family members from Texas who have search and rescue training and military veterans from the Columbia area who know the local terrain.
“There are people who have never met Eddie, they do not know Eddie, but they’ve read the Pulaski County Web, they’ve read the newspapers, they’ve seen it on television, they have military connections, they are veterans, and they are looking at it like they are trying to bring their brother home,” Minarik said.