Citizen soldiers rescue 87-year-old woman, stranded in Pinelands for days
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST — Non-commissioner officers from the Massachusetts Army National Guard and Army medics rescued an 87-year-old New Jersey woman who'd spent the weekend lost in the Pinelands woods.
In an announcement from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehust, it said members of G Company 186th Brigade Support Battalion found the woman Monday, after looking for a location to conduct recovery training.
Staff Sgt. Dana Francis and Sgt. Tommy Coppola, both non-commissioned officers and civilian firefighters, spotted a Cadillac that had become stuck in soft sand along a wooded tank trail, the base wrote.
“At first we didn’t know what to think of it because it was suspicious,” Francis said in the announcement.
They honked the horn several times before approaching the vehicle — with all its doors open and a sunshade in the windshield — and spotted a woman slumped in the back seat, the base wrote. When they called out to her, she was unresponsive, the base wrote.
“We knew she was breathing,” Francis said, in the announcement.
They retrieved members of A Battery, 1st Battalion, 101st Field Artillery Regiment, who were conducting annual training, the announcement said. Spc. John Shively and Pfc. Aaron Amardey-Wellington, both medics, returned with them to the woman, it said.
“I ran up to the vehicle and found she was just waking up,” Coppola said, according to the base. “We were thinking the worst when we first started.”
At first, the elderly woman was confused, unable to explain how she got stuck deep in the woods, near Route 539, the announcement said. Eventually, she said she'd been there since the Saturday before — without anything to eat or drink except rainwater from passing storms.
"It appeared she was suffering from severe dehydration and possibly heat illness. The weather conditions were extremely hot and the heat index rose more than 100 degrees during the day," the joint base wrote.
The four men got her water and oxygen, and helped Air Force Security Personnel and Fort Dix Ambulance crews that next arrived at the scene.
“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. Jeffrey M. Holloway, commander of the 1st Battalion, 101st Field Artillery Regiment, said in the base announcement.