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Ohio Special Response Search Team Assists in Search for Gahanna Teen

February, 2022 – On February 21st, Ali Shegow (17), went missing in the raging flood waters of Big Walnut Creek, in Gahanna, Ohio. He was last seen entering the water by his friend Dirie, who reported, “Eventually we got to a part of the trail where it was actually flooded and he proceeded to take his clothes off and his shoes and that’s when I noticed he was running into the water,”

Mifflin Township Division of Fire, the City of Gahanna, Columbus Division of Fire, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, New Albany, and West Licking Fire Department personnel utilized a helicopter, and drones to conduct a search on foot as well as in watercraft along nearly nine miles of waterway beginning on Tuesday, the 22nd. At the time Ali went missing, Big Walnut Creek waters were as much as 8 feet above normal flood level and the overflow extended 30-40 feet beyond both banks. As well, the creek was loaded with extensive debris, much of which accumulated in large debris fields across shallow areas as well as in complex log jams around bridge supports and other obstructions. According to police: “Adverse weather, quickly changing water levels, large amounts of debris above and below the water’s surface, hazardous conditions along the creek’s banks, and other factors hamper the efforts of search teams.”

The Ohio Special Response Team was contacted and arrived on scene on Thursday, March 3rd to begin a series of rapid searches utilizing highly skilled K-9s, accompanied by over a dozen search and rescue operations experts. On Friday, Unit 6 arrived and began coordinating more detailed search grids with Mifflin County Fire personnel. The search continued as waters were lowered via reduced flow from the Hoover Reservoir, approximately 17 miles upstream from Gahanna. On Saturday, Unit 3 arrived to assist in the search with additional personnel and K-9 teams. Two separate K-9s indicated that there were traces of human remains in the area between Lintner Park and a pedestrian bridge adjacent the Creekside Conference Center. Unfortunately, the location was heavily obscured by a large log jam both above and beneath the surface of Walnut Creek. As the teams worked downstream from this position, scent traces tapered off.

The OSRT search was called off by Mifflin Fire at approximately 1600 on Saturday when personnel at the Hoover Reservoir dam communicated the need to release additional water to minimize the risk of further flooding due to coming rains.

On May 14, Ali’s remains were located in Big Walnut Creek near Creekside Park in Gahanna. The Ohio Special Response Team families wish to express our sincere condolences to Ali’s family and friends in this terrible time.

Alan Plastow is a faculty member teaching the Certificate in Applied Project Management at The University of Akron. He's also a member of the Medina County Child Abduction Response Team, and the American Red Cross and Team Rubicon disaster response teams.

One of the OSRT Search Teams Receives Safety Briefing Prior to Deployment Along Big Walnut Creek, Gahanna, Ohio.

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