Waupaca County Sheriff Brad Hardel awarded commendations to two deputies.
Deputy Pat Gorchals was recognized for his work as incident commander during the search for Kitty Wenkus.
Deputy Bryan Strobusch was recognized for his efforts to update the county’s Drug Endangered Children program.
At 3:15 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6, the Waupaca County Sheriff’s Office was notified that 92-year-old Kitty Wenkus was missing from her home in King.
A member of the initial response team, Gorchals assumed the role of incident commander.
An incident commander is responsible for all aspects of an emergency response, including quickly developing incident objectives, managing all incident operations, application of resources, as well as responsibility for all persons involved.
Gorchals recognized the seriousness and large scope of the situation and immediately requested mutual aid from several area agencies, including law enforcement, fire departments and emergency medical staff.
The search for Wenkus included a helicopter and two drones from different departments, boats, dive teams, K-9s from multiple agencies, rescue horses, neighborhood canvases, hundreds of volunteers and thermal imaging technology during the night.
Surrounding businesses allowed officers to view surveillance videos and donated provisions for rescue teams.
After more than 19 hours, Wenkus was found in a wooded area about one-half mile from her home at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 7.
Wenkus was flown by Theda Star Air Ambulance to a hospital, then released on Sept. 12.
In addition to his 19 years as a patrol deputy, corrections officer and dispatcher for Waupaca County, Gorchals has served as a captain for the Weyauwega Fire Department and as an EMT for the city of Weyauwega.
“I am proud of Deputy Gorchals for his unparalleled leadership as incident commander,” Hardel said. “When Deputy Gorchals coordinates such responses he does so with a calm, decisive and compassionate tone. Deputy Gorchals’ dedication is a model example of public service.”
Hardel said Strobusch, while working in drug enforcement for the past two years, identified a problem with the county’s outdated and ineffective Drug Endangered Children (DEC) program.
A DEC program is a multi-disciplinary team comprised of members from law enforcement, human services, prosecutors, the medical community, the health department and probation and parole.
Through the DEC program, organizations within a community work together to respond to the immediate needs of drug-endangered children. They also gather evidence to prosecute adults for child endangerment and other charges.
Frustrated with the system, Strobusch believed there was a better way to protect children.
He contacted DEC experts within the state and learned ways to improve Waupaca County’s program.
Strobusch then partnered with Waupaca County’s Department of Health and Human Services and the state DEC to rewrite the county’s program.
He presented the new protocols to each police department in the county, as well as to the Department of Health and Human Services, the District Attorney’s Office, Waupaca Probation and Parole and Gold Cross Ambulance.
Strobusch also organized experts to hold joint training sessions.
On Aug. 7, the Wisconsin Alliance for Drug Endangered Children recognized Strobusch for his efforts to rewrite the county’s DEC program.
“Since the formation of our new program, Deputy Strobusch and the rest of our team have already responded to several DEC type calls for service,” Hardel said. “Together our team has been able to provide resources and services our old program would have failed to provide to children within our community.”
Strobusch has been with the Waupaca County Sheriff’s Office for five years.