Two people fled from a rollover accident on Route 77 near Bloomingdale Road on Friday afternoon, and while the woman was apprehended after a couple of hours, the man -- described as a black male -- continued to elude law enforcement and the volunteer firefighters enlisted to help cordon off the area.
It was hot -- over 90 degrees -- and humid. After a short, dabbled rain, the sun blazed again on the deputies in their dark uniforms and the firefighters in their turnout gear, and they all continued the search.
Nobody was even sure if the man was still in the area. The woman said a friend had swung down Route 77 and picked him up. But deputies also didn't necessarily believe that tale.
And since he was known to be injured, suffering a facial cut in the accident, and because it was not a good day to be out in the sun losing blood, they searched, unsure why he fled, but certain if he didn't get a ride, he would need help.
The search was called off once, shortly after Erie County's Air One left the area, but then the weather shifted and the State Police helicopter was cleared to fly, so it headed toward Alabama and picked up Deputy Chris Parker (who used to be part of that unit) to continue the search.
By this time, Alabama Chief Gary Patnode was home, resting, as were most of the other firefighters, then Patnode's sister called. She had seen a man walking down Route 77 who matched the description of the man deputies were looking for.
Patnode hopped in his truck and headed south on Alleghany Road. He spotted the man and contacted dispatch, who notified patrols.
Sgt. Jason Saile, who had been part of the search the entire hot afternoon, pulled up behind the man first, got out of his SUV and as the man turned around, hands in the air, Saile put out his own hand, which held a bottle of water.
The man was later identified as Ralph F. Forte, of Rochester. Charges are pending against Forte.
The woman, Sabrina J. Brownell, of Little Genesee, is charged with DWI and is facing other possible charges.
Brownell suffered minor injuries. Forte suffered cuts on his face from the accident and a possible dislocated arm. He was also suffering from heat exhaustion by the time he was located.
The incident began in Lockport with a report of a rolling domestic on Route 77, with the vehicle heading south. Then Genesee County dispatchers were informed of a rollover accident just north of Bloomingdale Road.
Civilians first on scene uprighted the vehicle and medics saw the two occupants flee, and they provided deputies with a description of the subjects.
When law enforcement arrived, they saw the subjects head into the wooded area just south of Bloomingdale and east of Route 77. A K-9 from Medina joined the search, and Air One from Erie County arrived about 40 minutes later.
During that part of the search, the woman appeared, apparently of her own accord, on a gravel road (a snowmobile trail when there's snow) and Patnode and Saile drove to her location. She was questioned and then provided medical treatment before being transported by Mercy EMS to Strong Memorial Hospital.
Then the search continued, including a time about 20 minutes later when the Air One pilot thought he had spotted the missing black male.
Some 30 minutes later, he still hadn't been located and Air One need to return to Erie County.
Just before a quarter to six, the State Police helicopter arrived on scene. At 6:10 p.m., the subject of the search was spotted on Route 77.
Saile handed him a bottle of water and then the man was allowed to sit in the shade of Saile's patrol vehicle. Medics arrived and provided first aid until a Mercy EMS ambulance arrived. The man was placed on a stretcher and put in the ambulance and transported to Strong.
Also assisting in the case are Deputy Andrew Hale, Deputy Michael Lute and Lt. Todd Draper, and the K-9 patrol with Medina PD.