LAKEHURST, N.J. (AP) — An elderly woman was stranded in a wooded area for days without food but collected rainwater to drink before soldiers from the Massachusetts Army National Guard happened upon her car and saved her, officials said.
The soldiers had been training in New Jersey at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and were on a scouting mission when they found the car deep in a wooded area Monday afternoon, the Guard said. The car's doors were open, and there was a sunshade in the windshield.
The soldiers found the 87-year-old woman slumped over in the backseat. She remained unresponsive after they honked the horn several times, but she awoke when a soldier approached.
"At first we didn't know what to think of it because it was suspicious," said Staff Sgt. Dana Francis, of G Co. 186th Brigade Support Battalion.
"We were thinking the worst," said Sgt. Tommy Coppola, who spotted the car along with Francis.
Francis and Coppola, who are civilian firefighters, went back to the training area and sought the help of two medics, Spec. John Shively and Pfc. Aaron Amardey-Wellington. The four returned to the car and helped the woman into a military ambulance.
The woman told them her car had become stuck in soft sand Saturday morning. She collected rainwater to drink while temperatures reached the upper 90s.
She suffered extreme dehydration and possibly heat illness, officials said. Her condition has improved significantly.
The soldiers have been praised for their actions.
"It was by chance that the contact team was traveling down this remote tank trail and came across the elderly woman. Their response and quick action are just another example of what being a citizen-soldier is about," Lt. Col. Holloway said in a statement.