A 43-year-old woman who had been missing for three weeks was rescued Tuesday after she was found trapped inside a storm drain just a few feet away from a busy Delray Beach thoroughfare.
She was naked and unable to stand on her own.
The bizarre rescue began early Tuesday during rush hour when a good Samaritan heard yelling coming from a drain on Atlantic Avenue and called 911, according to Delray Beach Fire Rescue. How she ended up in the drain is even more unusual:
The woman told officers she went for a swim in a canal near her boyfriend’s home in West Delray Beach on March 3, according to Delray Beach police.
“While she was swimming, she came across a doorway near a shallow part of the canal. She stated she entered the doorway and noticed a tunnel,” reads the March 23 incident report. According to the report, she became curious and began walking down the tunnel, which led to another tunnel and so on until she became lost.
On March 3, after 9 p.m., her boyfriend reported her missing to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
Police say they don’t know how long the woman was in the tunnels. The woman claims she was walking in the tunnels, lost, for about three weeks until she “saw some light” and decided to sit there because she saw people walking by, according to the report. It’s unclear how long it took for someone to notice her.
“There’s a lady stuck in a sewer, yes ma’am, she cannot get out. She’s screaming for help ... she don’t have no clothes,” a woman told the 911 operator on Tuesday, according to a recording of the call the Miami Herald obtained through a public record request. The woman told the operator she was in her car, with her windows down, when she heard the screams.
“You hurt?” the driver asks the trapped woman. “No,” she answers.
Crews on Tuesday morning removed the grate to access the drain, which is about 8-feet deep, fire rescue said. They then used a ladder and harness to lift the woman out. Some crew members held a large white sheet around the drain to protect her privacy as she was pulled up.
The woman had several scrapes, was “dirty and disheveled” and could not stand to grasp the ladder, said Delray Beach Fire Rescue spokeswoman Dani Moschella.
“She couldn’t stand on her own ... She’s very lucky that someone heard her ,” said Moschella.
The woman, wrapped in the sheet, spoke briefly with her rescuers and a few officers before she was taken to Delray Medical Center to be treated for dehydration.
The woman will now undergo a mental assessment. Her mother told police she has a history of mental illness and is known for “doing odd things and making bad decisions when she is high on drugs,” according to the report. Police said she is a Methadone patient and that her last dose was the day prior to her disappearance.