Lifestyle & Human Interest

68-Year-Old Woman with Dementia Goes Missing, 6 Days Later Found Alive in Snow-Covered Car


A 68-year-old woman from Butte County, California, was rescued from a snowy and rural area on Wednesday, six days after she was first reported missing.

Paula Beth James, who suffers from dementia according to officials, was last seen in her Oroville, California, town on Jan. 9, KCRA reported.

Search and rescue teams and the Butte County Sheriff’s office spent almost a week trying to locate James, who had been driving a silver-colored SUV when she went missing.

California Highway Patrol officials issued a silver alert in response to James’ disappearance while helicopter pilots searched the snowy forest below for any sign of James or her vehicle.

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On Wednesday, Butte County Sheriff’s officials spotted the woman’s SUV from a helicopter and were able to land and hike to the SUV, which was 150 yards off the road and covered in snow.

“It really is a needle in a haystack,” Dan Newman with Butte County Search and Rescue told KCRA. James’ car was located about 50 miles from her home.

“The vehicle had a lot of snow on top. On top of that, being a silver car, it doesn’t really have any contrast against the snow.”

The rescue team found James still alive and was able to transport her out of the snow via sno-cat to a local hospital.

Officials told KCRA that James was conscious and talking when they rescued her and appeared overjoyed to see their faces.

“She was in good spirits,” Newman said. “She was very excited to see us, and we were just as excited to see her.”

Family members told KTXL that James suffered frostbite and severe dehydration. To stay warm while she was lost, they said she would turn on her car every so often for heat and used floormats and blankets in her car.

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Butte County Sheriff’s officials issued a statement about James’ rescue, writing that BCSO officials, search and rescue members and pilots spent over 100 hours searching for the missing woman.

“We are all grateful for this fortunate outcome and wish her a speedy recovery,” the sheriff’s office wrote.

Megan McMann, a spokeswoman for the BCSO, told the San Francisco Chronicle the outcome was especially ideal as the area was bracing for another winter storm.

“It’s wonderful news and this is the outcome that we had all been hoping for, especially with a storm coming in,” McMann said.

Family members were relieved that James had been found alive and thanked those involved in the search and rescue effort.

“We’re told she’s in good spirits, her ornery self. She’s doing good,” Jennifer Horace, James’ niece, told KCRA. “We’re really hopeful for a positive, seamless recovery.”

“It’s just been so great to see how many good people there are out there,” Horace said.

“You see so many negative stories and its such a scary world, and to see so many people not knowing (James), not knowing the families, take time out of their day — It’s been amazing.”

“I just am so thankful for the relief that everyone is going to have tonight knowing that she’s safe and warm and fed and we’ll get to bring her home soon,” James’ stepdaughter, Laura Powell, told KTXL.

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A graduate of Grand Canyon University, Kim Davis has been writing for The Western Journal since 2015, focusing on lifestyle stories.
Kim Davis began writing for The Western Journal in 2015. Her primary topics cover family, faith, and women. She has experience as a copy editor for the online publication Thoughtful Women. Kim worked as an arts administrator for The Phoenix Symphony, writing music education curriculum and leading community engagement programs throughout the region. She holds a degree in music education from Grand Canyon University with a minor in eating tacos.
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