PORTLAND, Ore. — An elk hunter found a missing elderly couple who were stranded in an Oregon forest with the body of a deceased neighbor, the authorities said Monday.
Searchers had been looking for the three since Sept. 3, when a relative reported the disappearance. The three went for a drive on Sept. 1 and did not return.
Sgt. Brad O'Dell of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office said the hunter spotted the missing vehicle Saturday morning on a remote forest road. He called 911 and then drove the couple to an ambulance.
Melvin Hawkins, 86, and Alice Hawkins, 80, of Riddle, were taken to a hospital for an evaluation, but were in good condition when entering the ambulance, O'Dell said. A message service connected to their phone number was full Monday and not accepting new messages.
Their neighbor, 70-year-old Sharon Buchanan, died the night before the hunter arrived. O'Dell said she "quietly passed," likely from natural causes.
He said a medical examiner planned to examine health records before listing a cause of death. No autopsy is planned.
Though many details remain unknown, O'Dell said Buchanan joined her neighbors for a Sept. 1 day trip to look at wildfires burning in the area.
In the Hawkins' Chrysler PT Cruiser, they headed south on Interstate 5 toward Azalea, stopping at a general store in the small town.
The ride ended when their the vehicle got stuck on a rut-filled dirt road that was overgrown with grass. None of the three had a cellphone and they were too far from anything to walk for help.
"They did have some Coca-Cola in the car with them," O'Dell said. "But they did not have medications, they did not have sufficient food and they did not have water."
Oregon, a state with a lot of forestland, has frequent instances of motorists and outdoor enthusiasts lost or stranded in the middle of nowhere.
The Hawkins and Buchanan had not told anyone their destination, but searchers thought they were likely near Azalea after learning of the visit to the general store.
"It's really important to communicate a plan, and tell people where you're going," O'Dell said. "Leave a map if possible."
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