An off-duty police officer hunting in the woods was led to a missing 78-year-old man by the man’s dog, Manchester police said.

Fred Rapp was reported missing by his daughter, Heidi Sarno, on the Friday evening after Thanksgiving, Manchester police said. They opened up an investigation that included tracking his phone's GPS, which was tracked to an area off Route 37 in Toms River and Berkeley Township, police said.

Police used an ATV to search for Rapp in the area, where they picked up a signal but were unable to locate him, police said.

After numerous calls to his phone, Rapp answered it around 5:45 a.m. and told an  officer he had crashed his vehicle in a wooded area but did not know where he was — but moments later, said another officer was with him.

"Mr. Rapp subsequently handed his phone to the person who, to Sgt. (Theodore) Cooke’s surprise was off-duty Manchester Sergeant Charles Brooks, who had been hunting in the area at the time," police wrote.

Brooks had seen dog alone on a trail, police said. He followed the dog's paw prints and foot impressions for several hundred yards inside the Crossley Preserve site to Rapp, according to police.

Brooks walked Rapp out of the woods to a waiting police vehicle, where he was treated by first- responders before he was taken to Community Medical Center for further treatment.

“This situation highlights the fact that a police officer is a police officer 24/7," Manchester Police Chief Lisa Parker wrote in a press release. "We are truly fortunate that Sgt. Brooks was in the right place at the right time because without his help there is no telling how this story would have ended."

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

Light Up New Jersey — Entries so far