PHOENIX A 72-year-old woman who got lost in an Arizona forest after running out of gas en route to a visit with her grandchildren was rescued after nine days surviving on pond water and plants, state troopers said on Tuesday.
Ann Charon Rodgers, who used sticks and rocks to fashion a “HELP” plea in a clearing, suffered from exposure but was reported in fair condition when she and her dog were found by authorities on Saturday on a back country road on the Fort Apache Reservation.
The Tucson resident was released from the hospital later that evening and reunited with her family, authorities said.
Authorities said Rodgers had been missing since March 31 when she left home to travel to Phoenix to see her grandchildren.
Rodgers, who was traveling with her dog, said she got lost, ran out of gas and depleted the charge on her hybrid vehicle. She became disoriented and climbed several ridges in an attempt to get better cellphone service, to no avail.
A massive search was launched on April 3 after her vehicle was spotted, authorities said in a statement.
Six days later, a tribal wildlife officer found her dog walking in an area known as Canyon Creek and a state helicopter crew spotted her makeshift distress signal on the canyon floor, according to the statement.
A handwritten message tucked under a rock described her plight and her plans to proceed down the canyon, and searchers said they encountered what appeared to be an abandoned shelter in the area.
She was spotted by a helicopter as it rounded a bend in the canyon.
“Rodgers was located standing next to a signal fire and waving to the helicopter,” troopers said in the statement, adding that she was able to walk to the aircraft and board it with little assistance.
A state police spokesman said late on Tuesday afternoon that Rodgers could not immediately be reached for interviews.
(Reporting by David Schwartz; editing by Sara Catania, G Crosse)