ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – An elderly New Mexico couple who took a wrong turn and got stranded on a remote forest road in eastern Arizona survived two winter storms over five days before the woman collapsed and died as they tried to hike to safety.
An Arizona Game and Fish Department officer found Dana Davis, 86, of Albuquerque walking along a road in Gila County on Wednesday, one day after law enforcement agencies and the Civil Air Patrol launched searches for the couple in Arizona and New Mexico. His wife, 82-year-old Elizabeth Davis, was found dead a short time later near the vehicle, which was spotted by an airplane.
Davis told authorizes his wife died Tuesday morning shortly after they left their car, which had run out of gas. After trying to revive her, Davis said he continued walking, taking shelter under a tree overnight. He started walking again Wednesday morning, when he was spotted by an officer from the Arizona Game & Fish Department near U.S. 60.
Detective Seth Tyler of the Chandler, Ariz., police department said the couple had been visiting a nephew in Chandler. They left Dec. 1, setting out on U.S. 60 rather than the interstate because they wanted to visit a wildlife refuge near Socorro, N.M.
But U.S. 60 splits, and they accidentally ended up on U.S. 70. Realizing their mistake, Tyler said, the couple consulted a map and decided to take a forest road that connects to U.S. 60.
"It's not a good road," he said. "On the forest roads out here you have to have a high clearance vehicle. You really have to have a four-wheel drive and they were in a LeSabre. They made it about six to 10 miles when their transmission or something went out. The car would run, but it wouldn't go anywhere."
He said it was unclear if the couple had any food in their car.
Davis was taken to a hospital in Globe, where Tyler said he was "doing pretty good, all things considered. ... They had snow and pretty cold weather."
Tyler said it was unclear if the woman had any medical conditions that might have contributed to her collapse.
"He just said she collapsed and he made it sound like she died pretty quickly," Tyler said.
Tyler said the couple did not have a cell phone, but that wouldn't have mattered.
"There is no service out there," he said. "It's pristine wilderness not touched very often by man."