A grandma and her animal companions were rescued, after surviving by eating plants and drinking pond water for nine days in Arizona’s White Mountain wilderness.
Ann Rodgers, 72, spelled out the word, “HELP” on a canyon floor. She included a handwritten note under one of the rocks, explaining her predicament.
Rodgers, who was reported missing on March 31, wandered in the wilderness for nine days before helicopters spotted her clear-headed message, according to Huffington Post.
The plucky grandma was driving from Tucson to Phoenix to see her grandchildren when she ran out of gas. She had used up the charge in her hybrid vehicle. She tried to call for help, but couldn’t find a cell signal.
— indianz.com (@indianz) April 13, 2016
She stayed in the car the first night, where she was reasonably warm and had food and water. She had her dog, Queenie, and cat, Nike, in the car with her.
The next day, she wandered off the road, climbing several ridges while trying to get a connection. She took Queenie with her, and left Nike in the car with food and water.
After spending the night on the ridge, she realized she was in trouble.
“I realized I was in a situation that had to change very quickly.”
She and her dog risked attack from bears and possibly mountain lions, not to mention the errant rattlesnake.
— RT (@RT_com) April 13, 2016
She said that she had binoculars with her, so she was able to spot the river, and hiked down to it.
She was carrying a lighter with her, so she was able to build signal fires and keep warm at night.
Her dog, Queenie, was eating clover, and also scavenged an elk carcass. Rodgers said that Queenie was her “pathfinder,” showing her the best routes through the thickest brush.
Rodgers has been doing survival training for many years.
Rodger’s car was found on the side of a remote road on April 3, thus beginning a multi-agency search. Among them were the Arizona department of public safety air rescue unit, White River Indian Reservation officials, and the Tonto Rim search and rescue.
— Dept. Public Safety (@Arizona_DPS) April 13, 2016
Besides multiple ground searches, two separate aerial searches were involved.
During the first few days, officials didn’t find any tracks.
Gila County Sheriff’s Detective Johnny Holmes told The Guardian that by the sixth day, they were losing all hope of finding Rodgers alive.
“We were expecting the worst but hoping for the best at that point.”
On April 9, a group of hikers found tracks by a creek bed. They called for an aerial search, saying they thought Rodgers may be close. The helicopters flew over the canyon and her “HELP” sign was spotted from the air.
Holmes said that rescuers found the note Rodgers had left under one of the rocks.
“The note said she had been without food for three days and that she was going to continue looking for a ranch and going down stream.”
Ground searchers found Rogers’ dog after that, and about 15 minutes later, the lost grandma was spotted from the air.
Holmes called the rescue a miracle.
“It’s a miracle on its own that she’s still here given she was out there that many days. The probabilities of finding her alive were really low.”
An NBC 12 reporter asked Rodgers if she felt like a miracle.
“No, what I feel like is a survivor.”
Rodgers handled her nine days well. After rescue workers air lifted her to a hospital in Payson, she was released within just a few hours. She is now back home in Tucson.
— Daily Mirror (@DailyMirror) April 13, 2016
Nike the cat is doing fine. Queenie the dog is just fine too, and finally “getting some meat back on her bones,” Rodgers said.
Holmes expressed admiration for Rodgers’ resourcefulness. He has not met her, but said that he hopes he will.
“She’s an amazing person just from what I know from me dealing with the search on this end of it. I’d love to shake her hand one day.”
Rodgers said that her family was waiting in Payson when she was released from the hospital. She told Fox News she was looking forward to a shower.
[Image via Randy Andy/Shutterstock]