Local search dog killed in line of duty
KARMA and her handler were heading back, but she was still following the child's scent. That's when she was hit. It's a loss that's hard for her fellow team members to swallow.
"We've had one other situation where a member passed away on one of our search calls and it's the same feeling. KARMA was just like one of us. She was part of our team," Hamilton County STARS Chief Clay Ingle said.
STARS Chief Clay Ingle lost his dad in the line of duty and says it's just as tough to lose KARMA, their only K-9 search team member. Her handler, Justin Whaley, bought her and joined the team a year ago, spending countless hours training her.
"You know KARMA can be a good dog and Justin can be a good handler, but together they were great," Ingle said.
She made her final contribution in an Ooltewah neighborhood Sunday moments after the lost boy was brought to safety. But she didn't know that yet, and kept following her nose.
"She just started to pull to the power lines which is where they found the child," Ingle said,"Just as it came around the curve and sped up, KARMA decided she wanted to jump in the ditch and unfortunately the car hit and killed her."
Search dogs stay about 15-25 feet in front of their handler during searches. She had about a 95-percent find rate in her trainings. Bloodhounds are key members of search teams that can cut the time it takes to locate a victim by two to three hours.
"Just the ability for Justin to do his job is definitely hard for him to do now because he's missing a major component of his team," Ingle said, "She had her own radio number. She's 2157, which is a number we're going to retire. Nobody will ever be assigned that number again."
Inlge says they've been getting calls from agencies throughout the area expressing their sympathy. KARMA will be cremated and buried at their station on Career Lane in Harrison at 4 p.m. Friday.
Visitation is from 3 p.m. - 4 p.m. at the Highway 58 Fire Training Center on Snow Hill Road. They're also accepting donations for their K-9 program.