Bus driver credited with saving missing man's life

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - It was a happy ending to a dangerous situation after an Alzheimer's patient wandered off from a dentist's office in Savannah. Savannah-Chatham Metro Police immediately began a search for the man, but it was an alert Chatham Area Transit bus driver who saved the day.

Richard Hopkins, an Alzheimers patient, had just gotten his teeth cleaned. His wife went for her cleaning and when she came out, Hopkins was gone.

Hopkins' wife called police and they set up a perimeter near the center at 65th Street and Waters Avenue, including CEMA's search and rescue team. However, the alert bus driver spotted Hopkins almost a mile away at 52nd Street and Skidaway Road.

"As I proceeded down Skidaway on my route, I saw an older gentleman darting in and out of traffic. So I called my dispatcher and that was it," Marcai Champon told WTOC.

Champon joined CAT in 2009 and has only been on the job for less than a year and a half. At the time, she had no idea Hopkins was suffering from Alzheimer's.

"I'm glad he's home safely and I wish the best for the family," Champon said. "I am pretty alert.  I try to be."

Champon says she did not meet the Hopkins family, but she would like to. "No I did not but I hope so," she said.

Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Chief Willie Lovett is giving Champon all the credit for the save, saying it was her alertness which help get him to safety, and give the scary situation a happy ending for the Hopkins family.

SCMPD is now working on a plan to include CAT in future missing person reports, notifying drivers to be on the alert.

Hopkins was not injured and was returned to his wife at the Medical Arts Center.

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