An unplanned trip for ice cream turned two South Whidbey teens into real-life rescuers this week.
Jordyn Kelley and Niah Molo, both 14, were enjoying a half-day off school Wednesday and were walking along Highway 525 just south of Deer Lake to Dairy Queen when they heard someone yelling for help. It turned out to be an injured woman who was trapped in a marshy gully that runs along the state route. The girls called 9-1-1 and comforted the woman until help arrived.
South Whidbey Fire/EMS officials say the girls have much to be proud of. Not everyone takes the initiative to call 9-1-1 or do it right away, said Chief Rusty Palmer, but the girls’ quick action ensured the woman was found quickly and received the medical attention she needed.
“Whatever training they had in the past, it paid off because they did exactly the right thing,” Palmer said. “And it made a difference to the person.”
The girls said the incident was frightening; the woman was out of sight, obscured by heavy brush, and was in a lot of pain. They were relieved to learn she was rescued safely but wish they had an update on her condition.
“We want to know how she’s doing,” Kelley said.
The woman’s identity was not released due to federal privacy laws, and hospitals don’t provide medical information to the media about unidentified patients.
First responders, however, said the woman didn’t appear to have suffered life-threatening injuries. She was transported to Providence Regional Medical Center Everett Colby Campus in what appeared to be stable condition, according to Wendy Moffatt, the district’s medical division chief.
“Mostly bumps and bruises,” said Moffatt, just after the rescue.
The woman was extricated from heavy brush and mud in a marshy ravine that runs parallel to the highway just south of Cedar Vista Drive. She was found wearing only pants and a bra — her shirt was missing. The woman reportedly complained of severe ankle pain and was removed on a flat-board stretcher.
She told the girls that her “feet were broken.”
Deputy Brent Durley with the Island County Sheriff’s Office was one of two officers who responded to the incident. He said it is unclear what she was doing in the woods but that the woman reported becoming disoriented at some point.
“She said she got lost and that everything looked the same,” Durley said.
The woman reportedly lives nearby on a road behind the stretch of woods where she was found. Durley said she may have been trying to access the highway via a shortcut through the forest, but that couldn’t be confirmed.
The officer said there was no indication that alcohol or drugs were involved.
It’s also unclear just how long the woman was there. The girls said she told them she’d been trapped for four to five days. First responders said she lacked some of the typical signs of long term exposure, but if she had been there for a sustained period of time she was lucky to have escaped hypothermia. It can occur at temperatures 60 degrees or less, according to Palmer. Despite the warm weather, the nights were cold and being trapped in the mud would have left her even more vulnerable, he said.
Had the girls not been there to hear her scream, along a stretch of road seldom walked by pedestrians, things might have turned out differently.
“The woman was very lucky they were walking by at the time,” Palmer said.
“What these kids did was wonderful,” he added.