What should have been a simple walk to the mail box approximately 50 yards from the home of John McGraw age 32 and his 21 year old sister, Shalaynna Gibson of #11 CR 2091 in North Liberty County resulted in a eight and a half hour search and rescue operation when the pair decided to take a walk further down a dirt road of which they were not familiar and became lost in heavy woods. Around 3:pm on Friday, March 14th. the brother and sister left their parent’s home in the Sam Houston Lake Estates subdivision to get the mail. At about 4:pm, the parent’s received a cell phone call from their daughter, Shalaynna, who told them that she and her brother were lost in the woods and had no idea where they were.
The Liberty County Sheriff’s Department was not notified until 7:50pm and then Cpl. Josh Leal and Deputy Taylor Wells responded to the scene along with the Tarkington Fire Department while the Sheriff’s Mounted Posse Search and Rescue team along with Texas EquuSearch were placed on “stand-by”. While Cpl. Leal established a Command Post on CR. 2091, Deputy Wells along with several Fire Department Members drove vehicles and ATV’s to an area where a “ping” on Shakaynna’s cell phone indicated the pair may be. Once in the general area, Deputy Wells and Firefighter Evert Douctte rode ATV’s deeper into the woods while the other fire fighters used the fire truck siren to direct the lost pair to the rescuers location. Cell phone contact was made with McGraw and Gibson but they said at first they could not hear the siren.
As darkness fell, the Sheriff’s Department contacted the U.S. Coast Guard and requested a helicopter for an aerial search with a spot light. At about 9:30pm, the helicopter located the lost pair and, again, by cell phone, the searchers directed the couple towards the rescue team. Finally, the searchers and McGraw and Gibson got within ear shot of each other but due to the darkness and thick woods was unable to make visual contact until around 10:30pm. Once visual contact was made, it was found that a body of water separated the searchers from the two. It became necessary for the brother and sister to swim the body of water to reach their rescue team and the rescue was completed at 11:25 pm.
The pair was returned from approximately one and a half miles to the Command Post where they were checked over for any physical injuries by a Liberty County EMS medical team. Other than being wet, cold and tired by their almost nine hour ordeal in the muddy woods, the pair was found to be in good condition and they returned to their parent’s home.
Ironically, the home from which McGraw and Gibson went missing is the same home where little two and a half year old Devin Davis wandered away from approximately two years ago and his body was found in a nearby lake by a Texas EquuSearch volunteer after a full week of searching by a large number of searchers. The home is now owned by a different family and neither the brother nor sister were that familiar with their new surroundings.