The dense woods of Central Florida are an unforgiving environment. Riddled with nature’s obstacles of vines, dense scrub brush and an abundance of hungry insects, let alone larger animals. Those were the daunting surroundings Elizabeth Parker, 98, disappeared into yesterday.
When her daughter Katie Wayne and Katie’s husband Gary arrived home in the early evening, they discovered the elderly woman was nowhere to be found. Parker is frail, doesn’t drive and uses a walker, so the couple immediately called 911.
Lake County Sheriff’s officers and assisting first responders fanned out to scour the nine acres on Lake Joanna with bloodhounds and a helicopter. The intense effort went non-stop until 2:30 a.m., when the search was suspended until daybreak. The family spent an emotional night fearing for Parker’s safety. “It was not a good night, to say the least.” said Gary. Early this morning deputies returned to the property and added divers to the search. Rescuers found Parker, who has no history of dementia, at approximately 10 a.m. this morning, lying under a large palm frond in a densely wooded area with only minor cuts and scrapes.
ABOVE: Parker (center) with Gary Wayne (left).
"The area was so dense, even a gorilla would have a difficult time getting there," said Gary of Parker's location. After spending the night isolated in a precarious environment, Parker was remarkably unshaken by the experience. She exited the woods on her own feet with the help of rescuers and Gary. As she saw her son-in-law cry, Parker responded, “Don’t worry, it all turned out okay.” She was transported to the hospital for closer examination. “The rescuers were very concerned and took it real serious,” said Gary of all the first responders. “I credit them a hundred percent for saving her life. The officers were top notch.” There is no doubt that tomorrow will be a very special Mother’s Day for the Wayne family.