Oct. 4 started like any normal day for CAP Land Surveyors Brian Fisher and Tony Wickliff. They loaded up their truck and headed into the remote desert in La Paz County to do some work. Before 9 a.m., this day became anything but normal when they spotted what appeared to be an abandoned vehicle stuck on the dike near milepost 74.
Wickliff hopped out and approached the vehicle while Fisher called the CAP Control Center to report the abandoned vehicle. However, as Wickliff approached, he saw a hand softly tapping on the driver’s side window – this was not an abandoned vehicle! Wickliff opened the door – a challenge since the vehicle was angled on the side of a hill – and saw an elderly woman who was in distress. She was alone and obviously had been trapped in the vehicle for several days. She couldn’t open the door because it was too heavy, and she couldn’t roll down the window because the vehicle battery was dead. She was dehydrated, cold and hungry.
“She had nothing with her,” said Wickliff. “I gave her water, found out her name was Joan, started talking with her and encouraged her to relax.”
He discovered that she had been riding with her son and after the vehicle got stuck, her son left to go get help – but he hadn’t returned.
Meanwhile, Fisher was taking action to get help onsite. After talking with CAP’s Control Center, he called 911 to request medical attention. He relayed details on the vehicle and was told that she was a missing person who had been reported as part of a silver alert three days ago! An EMT was dispatched from Brenda, Arizona and, given that their location didn’t exactly have a specific address, Fisher went to the nearest intersection at U.S. 60 and Vicksburg Road to wait for their arrival and guide them to the scene.
Because of the actions of Fisher and Wickliff, less than 30 minutes after discovering what they first believed to be an abandoned vehicle, help had arrived. CAP’s Protective Services Agent Mike Walters was managing the scene that included law enforcement, medical responders and animal control. EMTs were onsite administering aid. An ambulance was dispatched from Quartzsite and Joan was transported for medical treatment and then transferred to a helicopter and flown to Phoenix.
As Fisher and Wickliff turned the situation over to the responders and left the scene, the immense gravity of the situation hung over them. Joan had been trapped in her vehicle for at least three days. She was alone, except for her small dog who, sadly, didn’t survive the ordeal. They had, literally, saved her life. If they had gone a different way or done work in another location, the outcome may not have been as positive. Their perspective is humble.
“I did what any normal person would have done,” said Wickliff.
Perhaps, but it’s a situation that many are never faced with and not one that is easily forgotten. Fisher acknowledged that many things lined up so they could help.
“We don’t always work in pairs, so it was fortunate that we did that day,” said Fisher. “Not to mention that we always roll with plenty of supplies and are prepared.”
How ever you look at it, one thing is for certain – Fisher and Wickliff saved a life.