MATOAKA — An extensive search became a rescue effort Tuesday when Mercer County's first responders sought a county resident who was reported missing after he left home on an ATV to go squirrel hunting.

Jerry Clower was reported missing Tuesday to the West Virginia State Police Princeton detachment, according to Keith Gunnoe, director of Mercer County Emergency Management Services.

"This gentleman, who is in his late 60s or early 70s, had left his residence (Monday) to go squirrel hunting," Gunnoe said. "He didn't return last night, so his family and local folks in the community started to search for him. They said it wasn't uncommon for him to take off on his ATV."

Clower was found in the Cemetery Hill area of Matoaka near a place known as Slate Dump, according to Chief Steve Sommers of the Matoaka Volunteer Fire Department.

"He drove his ATV down a pretty steep mountainside about 800 to 1,000 feet, and when he got to the bottom of the hill, there was a vertical drop off of about 12 feet; and he rolled the ATV," Gunnoe stated. "At that point, he got himself out of the vehicle and started walking, trying to find his way out of the mountain. He made it about 100 yards from his ATV and he just gave out and basically spent the night there."

A search started Tuesday about 3 p.m. Members of the Montcalm Volunteer Fire Department found Clower around 5 p.m., Gunnoe said.

Firefighters with the Montcalm and the Matoaka Volunteer Fire Department worked at the scene along with members of the Bluewell Volunteer Fire Department and Bluefield Fire Department. Troopers with the state police and members of the Bluefield Rescue Squad also worked at the scene.

A rope rescue was conducted to get Clower, who had been secured in a Stokes basket, about 800 feet up the mountainside, Gunnoe said. Once they reached the top, he was secured to an ATV and transported to an ambulance which took him to Princeton Community Hospital. The effort took about an hour and a half to complete.

Gunnoe said Clower had minor injuries.

"As the OEM, I appreciate the work of all the departments," he added. "They worked together very well, and obviously we came out with a good outcome."

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