Co-op Sends in Crew, Bucket Trucks to Help Find Lost Toddler in Cornfield

Heartland REMC’s Doug Pennington, Zac Albin, Brady Miller, Eric Laymon and Jon Hiple volunteered to help find a 3-year-old who wandered into dense cornfields outside her home on an extremely hot day. (Photo By: Heartland REMC)

The Heartland REMC crew had just finished cleaning their trucks after a dusty job in 90-degree heat when Substation Foreman Doug Pennington got a call from his EMT cousin. A 3-year-old girl wandered into a 300-acre cornfield and volunteers were needed to find her.

Heartland REMC lent bucket trucks and personnel to the search for 3-year-old Evelyn Paige Clark, who was found deep in the cornfields near her home in Wabash, Indiana, after going missing for nearly four hours on a 90-degree day. (Photo Courtesy: Lafayette Police Department)

Pennington, Foreman Brady Miller and Operations Supervisor Eric Laymon quickly rounded up three bucket trucks and three more co-op crewmembers and headed to join the search outside the missing toddler’s Wabash, Indiana, home late last month.

“That day was miserable,” said Miller. “But it’s twice as hot in the corn, so I’m sure they were really worried about her getting overheated.”

The trucks parked, booms fully extended to 60 feet, about a half-mile apart along the road in front of the child’s house, which was surrounded on three sides by rows of corn rising 8 feet tall.

“We figured with the bucket trucks being able to go up so high, we might be able to see something,” said Miller. “We kept a lookout from up above while groups of people walked the corn.”

Heartland REMC positioned three bucket trucks above 300 acres of 8-foot-tall corn rows to aid a community-wide effort to locate a missing toddler in Wabash, Indiana. (Photo By: Jeremy Sweet)

As an emergency helicopter and drone with infrared sensors hovered overhead, searchers on foot stretched across the fields. A canine crew also joined in.

“As soon as I got up in the bucket, I started seeing multiple groups of people walking into the corn,” said Miller. Then the field appeared to swallow them.

“We couldn’t even see grown men walking,” he said. “You could just see corn moving.”

About three hours into the search and 200 yards into the corn, a line of volunteers, including Heartland Meter Technician Jon Hiple, heard the cry of “Daddy!” A deputy sheriff scooped up the tow-headed Evelyn Paige Clark and immediately carried her out of the cornfield to her mother.

“They were all yelling her name and then, all of a sudden, I heard someone say, ‘Found her!’ and you could see all the corn moving to one spot,” said Miller. “She had wandered quite a ways.”

Hiple emerged from the field drenched in sweat but in good spirits.

“We asked Jon how hot it was in the corn, and he said he basically didn’t even notice,” said Miller. “It was such an adrenaline rush just to find the girl and then just pure happiness.”

Heartland REMC gave a big shoutout to all the volunteers, which also included Journeyman Lineman Jeremy Sweet and Apprentice Lineman Zac Albin.

“We are beyond proud of our REMC employees, who dropped everything to help a family in need,” said Rachel Olsen, marketing and communications administrator for the Markle-based co-op. “They did not hesitate and showed the true value of a local cooperative.”

Cathy Cash is a staff writer for NRECA.