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Searchers Thought They'd Find a Body. Instead, a 'Miracle'

Paula James, who has dementia, found alive and talking in snow-covered car after 6-day search
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 16, 2020 9:40 AM CST
Members of the Butte County Sheriff's Search and Rescue squad transport 68-year-old Paula Beth James in Butte Meadows, Calif., on Wednesday.   (Courtesy of Butte County Sheriff's Department via AP)

(Newser) – The sheriff of Butte County, Calif., was sure rescuers would find a body upon locating the snow-covered vehicle of a woman who'd been missing in the mountains for six days. "When I heard that she was alive, I was just absolutely amazed," Kory Honea says, per CNN. "It's unusual for someone to be missing this long, especially in an environment like that, and survive." Paula Beth James, 68, who suffers from dementia, had been last seen at her Oroville home on Jan. 9, per CBS San Francisco. After more than 100 hours of searching, "we thought she was probably dead," stepdaughter Laura Powell tells KTXL. Then a helicopter crew spotted James' Toyota 4Runner lodged in the snow some 50 miles north of Oroville in Butte Meadows, 4,300 feet above sea level, on Wednesday.

Travel had been discouraged in the mountainous area this week owing to a winter storm, which brought temperatures into the low 30s. Thus, as rescuers reached the vehicle—about 150 yards off a road, per KGO—they prepared to find a body. Instead, they found James conscious and talking, though visibly cold, per CNN. "She looked at them and she said, 'I'm very cold, I hope you brought a blanket,'" Powell tells KTXL, noting Jones stayed warm by turning on her car periodically and covering herself in moving blankets and floor mats. "It was just literally a miracle that those guys found her in just the nick of time." Jones is now recovering from frostbite and severe dehydration in a hospital, but "she's safe and warm and fed and we'll get to bring her home soon," Powell adds. (Read more rescue stories.)

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