BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Helping those in need is something Sgt. Thomas Spann with the Department of Natural Resources is used to. But searching for his own missing family member is heartbreaking.
"We handle it the same, but it's different emotionally," Spann said.
Spann's uncle, 77-year-old James Spann went missing on July 12th. He was found dead in some woods in Pineville Monday afternoon, only a quarter mile from his home. People who knew Spann said they think they know why he went into those woods.
"He knew these woods. He was born and raised in those woods. He knew them like the back of his hand, and we really feel like the direction he was traveling. He was trying to make it back home," Bill Salisbury, the Berkeley County Coroner, said.
Family members say Spann suffered from dementia.
More than 50 volunteers, including members of Berkeley County Fire Rescue and the Sheriff's Office, searched for Spann Saturday, using a dog and helicopter. The woods where Spann was found, though, didn't make the search an easy one.
Rescuers had to cut a path through the woods. They say the brush is so thick, they couldn't see Spann during their aerial search.
When rescuers were unable to find him Saturday, they continued their search. Salisbury said it appears Spann died of heart failure and a heat stroke. He says Spann probably died the same day he left home.
Family members said Spann went missing once before, back in December of 2009. They said while this is a devastating time, they're relieved Spann's body was found.
"We've just got to pray our family can go on. We have closure, and we've been praying for that," Sgt. Spann said.