KGUN 9News


Tucson woman rescued after stranded 9 days

Posted at 11:30 AM, Apr 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-13 01:29:03-04

A 72-year-old Tucson woman was rescued Saturday after nine days of being stranded in a remote area east of Payson.

A spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Public Safety said Ann Rodgers and her dog got stranded on a remote stretch of road near Canyon Creek on March 31 after running out of gas and depleting the charge on her hybrid car.

She then attempted to climb several ridge lines in an attempt to get cell phone service.

DPS said for the next nine days and nights, Rodgers and her dog survived on pond water and plants.

Officials found her vehicle on April 3 on the side of the road, prompting an aerial search over the next two days that went unsuccessful.

On Saturday, officials found Rodgers' dog walking out of the canyon creek area, and a DPS Ranger helicopter was again called in to help search for her.

During the search, the chopper found a "HELP" signal made of sticks and rocks on the canyon floor. Ground crews located a hand written message at the signal indicating Rodgers was proceeding down the canyon.

Further down, the helicopter located an abandoned shelter and after rounding a bend in the canyon, Rodgers was located next to a signal fire, waving at the chopper.

DPS said she was suffering from exposure but was in fair condition. She was transported to a Payson hospital for treatment.

KGUN9 spoke to Rodgers, who says she broke down in tears when crews rescued her. 

"I did that for quite a bit because it was emotionally so difficult," Rodgers said. "And to finally, finally have human contact and see they were there -- it was overwhelming."

Rodgers says she has taken survivalist classes before and had some tools in her car, including a lighter and water. At night she tried to take shelter, and she wore as many layers as possible to keep warm. She used an empty Nutella jar to scoop up what water she could find, and ate what she knew was safe. 
"A lot of greens, like dandelion greens," Rodgers said. "And I found a plant that looked like romaine and that one was not bitter." 
Rodgers was with her dog Queenie, who helped her along the way.
"Queenie's leash became a tool, because it's a heavy chain with a leash end on it," Rodgers said. "I could wrap it around logs and snap and drag those big pieces that I couldn't normally move myself."
To pass the time, Rodgers says she meditated and drew pictures. She's very thankful for the search crews because at one point she felt like giving up. 
"I thought alright if this is the end, if this is it, at least I am going to die in the most beautiful natural cathedral I have been in for a very long time," Rodgers said. "So that's where I was with that thought, and then i thought nah, I ain't giving up yet."
Rodgers says from now on she will not travel like that alone, and looking back would have not left her car.
DPS encourages drivers to know which routes your taking, plan for fuel accordingly, and make sure someone knows you where you are going.