BUTTE FALLS, Ore. — Officials with the Jackson County Search & Rescue team are "thankful and relieved" after finding 80-year-old Geraldine "Gerry" Hendricks on Tuesday, the Sheriff's Office says. Hendricks, who suffers from dementia, disappeared from her home between Eagle Point and Butte Falls on Saturday evening.
Hendricks was able to survive for three straight nights exposed to the elements without any serious injury.
“It is always a good feeling to be able to give family members good news in a case like this,” said Jackson County Sheriff's Office Sergeant Shawn Richards. “She was cold and a little dehydrated, but she appears to be in amazingly good shape.”
SAR teams found Hendricks around 11:45 a.m. on Tuesday morning, the Sheriff's Office said. An ATV search team was driving along a forest road about two miles away from Hendricks' home when they came upon her walking along the road.
Mercy Flights medical staff quickly took Hendricks by ambulance to a waiting helicopter, then brought her to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center for evaluation.
According to Sgt. Richards, Hendricks was "talkative and in good spirits." Because of her dementia, she did not know how long she had been missing.
“She was surprised to find out we’d been out here looking for her for nearly three full days,” said Sgt. Richards.
Hendricks was reported missing on Saturday evening, and her caregiver said that she was only wearing a set of pink flannel pajamas. When SAR teams found her, Hendricks was wearing a turtleneck sweater, a pink camouflage coat and walking shoes over the pajamas.
Sgt. Richards assumed that she must have put on more clothing before walking away from her home.
"Those extra layers may have made all the difference in keeping her alive in the elements,” said Sgt. Richards.
Although the initial search on Saturday night included an SAR K9 team, the dog was unable to track Hendricks' scent beyond the end of her driveway.
"The abbreviated K9 track left search teams to wonder whether she continued walking or got a ride from someone," the Sheriff's Office said.
In all, the search effort included ground teams, K9s, ATVs, hasty rigs, drones, helicopters and planes, and the use of social media posts, a press conference, and Citizen Alert notifications in an effort to find Hendricks.
Sgt. Richards said he is grateful for the outpouring of support shown by the local community.
“The neighbors were very willing to help,” he said. “They opened up their properties to searchers and some even brought food and water to us.”