SAR Locates Missing Woman Alive - Final Release (Photo)
BUTTE FALLS, Ore. – Search officials are thankful and relieved after finding a missing 80-year-old woman with dementia. Geraldine “Gerry” Hendricks survived three nights in the elements without apparent 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.”
At 11:45 a.m. on October 15, 2019, JCSO search and rescue (SAR) personnel spotted Hendricks. The ATV search team was driving on a forest road approximately two miles from Hendricks’ home when they found her walking on the road.
Mercy Flights medics took Hendricks by ambulance to a waiting helicopter. She was then transported to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center for evaluation.
Sgt. Richards said Hendricks was talkative and in good spirits, but due to her dementia, she did not realize she had been missing for so long.
“She was surprised to find out we’d been out here looking for her for nearly three full days,” said Sgt. Richards.
JCSO deputies and search teams first got the call on the evening of Saturday, October 12. Hendricks’ caregiver called 911 at 6:44 p.m. and reported that Hendricks was missing and may have walked away. Hendricks was reportedly wearing pink flannel pajamas when she was last seen at 6:15 p.m. in her home in the 4400-block of Obenchain Road.
Sgt. Richards said it turned out that Hendricks put on more clothing before walking away from her home. When Hendricks was found, she was wearing a turtleneck sweater, pink pajama pants, a pink camouflage coat, and walking shoes.
"Those extra layers may have made all the difference in keeping her alive in the elements,” said Sgt. Richards.
The initial search effort on Saturday night included a SAR K9 team, which searched Hendricks’ property. The dog tracked Hendricks’ scent to the end of her driveway, but it ended at Obenchain Road. The abbreviated K9 track left search teams to wonder whether she continued walking or got a ride from someone.
The search effort included using social media posts, a press conference, and a Citizen Alert notification in hopes of finding someone who may have seen Hendricks.
The search continued day and night until Hendricks was found. SAR teams used ground teams, K9’s, ATV’s, hasty rigs, and drones. Helicopters and fixed wing aircraft also searched the area.
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.”
He also wished to thank the staff and volunteers who assisted in the search, some of whom traveled from other counties.
The following agencies assisted JCSO SAR with the search effort: Josephine County Sheriff’s Office, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Klamath County Sheriff’s Office, Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office, Modoc County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon State Police, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Civil Air Patrol, Brim Aviation, Timberland Aviation, Mercy Flights, and the Emergency Communications Center of Southern Oregon (ECSO).