A Whitewood resident who joined in the search for a missing elderly woman near Midland July 5 is being credited as a life saver.

Hazel Schwalm, 73, went missing around 10 p.m. July 4. Rescue officials said that she was assisting her husband move cows that had gotten lose and strayed onto neighbor’s property. On foot, Schwalm was bringing up the rear with a lame calf. But when the cow drive was done, Schwalm did not return. The family looked all night for the woman and called law enforcement for help the next morning.

Sharon Kirkpatrick-Sanchez, a psychology instructor at Black Hills State University, received a call for assistance. The member of the Lawrence County Search and Rescue of Lead-Deadwood, along with her German Shepherd dog, arrived at the site that afternoon, July 5. Temperatures were in the 90s.

“It’s was too hot to use the dogs,” Kirkpatrick-Sanchez said.

Because dogs pant thorough their mouths to keep cool, it inhibits their nose tracking abilities.

So Kirkpatrick-Sanchez packed up with a neighbor, Rick Jensen, and another member of the South Dakota Search and Rescue Dog Association Carol Boche in a pickup truck. They started searching the perimeter of the of the five-mile area at 2:30 p.m.

More than a half-dozen agencies with land and aerial assistance were searching by plane, helicopter and pickup trucks. More than 40 four-wheelers were deployed and a dozen volunteers scanned the area horseback

At approximately 6:20 p.m. July 5, Kirkpatrick-Sanchez eyed what she thought was a calf stuck in a dried up stock dam.

“It was her (Schwalm),” she explained. “She was lying in this muddy spot in the middle of a hayfield. …  The muck was like quicksand underneath.”

First to react, Kirkpatrick-Sanchez walked out on what appeared to be dry ground and sank up to her knees in muck. Before she could warn Jensen and Boche, she said, “Carol sank to her waste.”

With Schwalm, Kirkpatrick-Sanchez and now Boche stuck in the gumbo, Jensen ran back to the truck and retrieved jumper cables to try to pull the women out of the mud hole.

Before long, Kirkpatrick-Sanchez said, it was like the “cavalry had arrived.” Searchers on horseback and four-wheelers sped up over the hilltop and came to their aid. They positioned plywood on top of muddy area and the women were able to submerge from the muck safely.

Kirkpatrick-Sanchez said that Schwalm was sunburned on the minimal portion of her body that was not covered in mud. The 73-year-old woman was conscious and was said to be laughing when she was loaded onto an ambulance taking her to a Pierre hospital.

Contact Kris Garlick-Beaty at 642-8822, Ext. 20, or kris.garlick@lawrencecountyjournal.com


Posted in: Campus Currents