ROAN MOUNTAIN, Tenn. (WJHL) – A Silver Alert for a missing Carter County 65 year-old was issued at 1:53 p.m. Wednesday, almost a full week since he was last seen on July 1.
Thomas Hastings went missing from his home on Laurel Highlands Road in Roan Mountain sometime between Thursday, July 1 and the morning of Friday, July 2. Hastings has severe dementia. It is believed he wandered away from the house.
Tennessee Senate Bill 102 went into effect on July 1, the same day as Hastings disappearance. The law replaced the previously existing Care Alert program with a revamped Silver Alert program.
Silver Alerts are used to notify law enforcement and the public when individuals that are 60 or older, who have dementia or a physical or mental disability, go missing.
The new law changes the response time for local agencies and the amount of time required to report the missing individual to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
The law requires that local agencies begin investigating immediately. The previous law only urged agencies to do so. The law also sets a maximum time for an agency to request a silver alert from the TBI.
The law reads, “when the local law enforcement agency receives notice that a citizen with a condition described in subdivision (b)(2) or (b)(3) is missing and has received medical documentation of that
citizen’s dementia, physical impairment, or disability, the agency shall begin an investigation immediately and notify the Tennessee bureau of investigation within four (4) hours of receiving the notice of the missing citizen by filing a report with the bureau.”
Once the TBI receives the notice from the local agency, it must notify law enforcement, emergency agencies and the public within 12 hours.
The full law can be read below:
The family of Thomas Hastings reported him missing on Saturday, July 3. The sheriff’s office searched from about 6 p.m. to midnight, but it did not send a request for a Silver Alert to the TBI as required by the new law.
Not only did the Carter County Sheriff’s Office fail to request a Silver Alert from the TBI, it didn’t even get word out to the public until the afternoon on Sunday, July 4.
On Tuesday, Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford spoke with WJHL on Tuesday saying, “I don’t want to get into specifics, but there was some confusion when this whole thing began.”
The Sheriff’s Office PIO Thomas Gray told WJHL that they “misunderstood” the new law. They were confused due to the time between Hastings’ last sighting on July 1 and the reporting of the disappearance on July 3. Gray refused an interview on the subject.
On Thursday, Gray said the office re-evaluated the situation and corrected the error by requesting the Silver Alert, which was issued at 1:53 p.m.
Hastings’ family had previously stated it wished to see a Silver Alert issued to help raise awareness of their loved one’s disappearance.
Rep. David Hawk, Greeneville (R), a sponsor of the bill, said the law was meant to get information out as quickly, and to as many people, as possible.
“The intention of the law is to try to find these folks as quickly as possible, just as we have Amber Alert for children,” Hawk said.
The family is still leading a private search for Hastings, led by private investigator Chris Colbaugh. A volunteer search team today looked through Roan Mountain Community Park and the Doe River for signs of Hastings.
“There was always the worry that maybe he had gotten around the river and got in bad shape so we felt the need to search the river both upstream and downstream,” Colbaugh said.
Volunteers plan to search around the river with kayaks if water levels stay low to search through nooks and crannies in the riverbed. Colbaugh is currently reviewing security video from the park and a local medical building.
If you have any information or have seen Thomas Hastings, please call the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND.