Neighbors who joined the search for a missing 78-year-old woman say it's "truly a miracle" she was found in an extremely wooded area nearly a mile from her house.
Carol Gamble was reported overdue from a walk at about 2 p.m. last Saturday. Nearly 24 hours later, dispatch received a call from Susie Hirsch, who lives in the area, stating she and her kids had located Gamble on a hill behind their house. Gamble was tired and cold, and had suffered some minor injuries. She was transported to Delta County Memorial Hospital.
According to the Delta County Sheriff's Office, Gamble is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's. She had left home in a light jacket accompanied by her black toy poodle. When she had not returned home two hours later, her husband Curtis called dispatch.
Delta County Search and Rescue was notified to respond to the area. An incident command center was established and search teams covered a wide area attempting to locate Gamble. Temperatures were in the low teens that night with a strong breeze. The search continued until 2 a.m., then resumed at 6 a.m. on Nov. 19. Deputies, Delta County Search and Rescue members, San Miguel County Undersheriff Eric Berg (who donated an aircraft and air time), Cedaredge Fire Department, and several neighbors and friends assisted in the search. A "Code Red" alert was sent out to the area requesting everyone in that area to be on the lookout for Gamble.
At approximately 6:30 a.m., a neighbor notified dispatch that Gamble's dog Suzee had arrived at their residence. Searchers responded to that area attempting to locate the missing woman.
Then at 2 p.m., dispatch got a call from Hirsch.
Hirsch said she hadn't heard about the missing woman until a friend, one of the pilots aiding the search from the air, called. He advised the Hirsch family to check the sheds on their property.
"The kids and I decided to look around, so we put on our hiking boots and headed up the hill." They picked their way through cactus and around rocks as they moved up through the dense foliage. As Hirsch walked north toward one of her daughters, she spotted Gamble lying on the ground.
"God was definitely watching out for her," said Hirsch. "There's no way we would have found her otherwise."
Gamble was one of a handful of residents who participate in Life Trak, a radio transmission system designed to assist local law enforcement and agencies in locating lost or missing persons. Unfortunately, the system does not work well over long distances, or where there are obstructions, as was the case with the wooded area in which Gamble was found.
Delta County Sheriff, Fred McKee and Undersheriff Mark Taylor issued a press release on Monday thanking everyone involved in this search for their dedication and persistence while working in rough terrain and cold conditions. "We are pleased that this search resulted in a successful conclusion," they said.
"We would also like to thank all the friends and family members who live in the area and assisted in the search. There were people who brought hot coffee and hot food to the searches all night long.
"We are lucky to be living in a community like Delta County. The community support is outstanding when an unfortunate event like this occurs."
Hirsch is a veterinarian at Surface Creek Veterinary Center; Suzee and the Gambles are among her clients.