Lost & Found: 'You are one tough little lady'

by Wes Mayer

Eleanor Alexander, the 78-year-old missing for four days, was found alive Tuesday morning about half a mile from her home.

She was severely dehydrated, unalert, covered in bug bites and had a body temperature of around 80 degrees, authorities said. She was flown by air ambulance to Atlanta Medical Center shortly after being found around 11 a.m. Authorities say Alexander’s body temperature had increased to 85 degrees, and she was becoming more alert and responsive.

“We are just so thankful for everyone’s help and that she’s alive,” said her daughter-in-law, Becky Alexander.

Emergency medical personnel gave her fluids and oxygen at the scene and she started breathing more regularly and moving her fingers, according to Coweta County Sheriff Mike Yeager.

Alexander was discovered just inside the wood line at 1901 Franklin Highway by Tracy Sargent, Kris Fronebarger and their search and rescue dog, Cinco de Mayo, a black German shepherd. Sargent works privately as a K-9 search and rescue specialist, and Fronebarger is a firefighter with the Coweta County Fire Department, who was helping out off-duty.

“This was a team effort,” said Deputy Fire Chief Todd Moore. “Nobody wanted to give up, and it paid off.”

According to Sargent, Alexander attempted to climb over a barbed wire fence, tripped and fell. Sargent and Fronebarger decided to search the woods behind a house on Providence Church Road where dogs were reported to be barking earlier in the morning. About 150 yards in, Cinco began responding to Alexander’s scent, and she was quickly found.

“I told her,” Sargent said, “you have my respect. You are one tough little lady.”

Sargent said Alexander was traveling away from her home in a southeasterly direction, a direction typically traveled by those who are lost with mental diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Sargent also said that in all her years searching for missing people, they are rarely more than half a mile away from home.

Alexander was alone, without any food, water or medication, for more than 85 hours. She was found covered in bug bites and was cold to the touch, but she had no other physical injuries.

“We kept saying we would continue looking until we found her and we did,” said her niece, Lisa Beavers.

“After four days, that’s a miracle,” Yeager said. “She’s a strong-willed woman.”

Since she went missing, hundreds of volunteers have helped search for Alexander. Yeager said that in all his years of working, volunteers have never organized like this.

“I cannot thank the hundreds of volunteers enough,” Yeager said. “It was unbelievable. They were truly there to help. They were there for the right reasons, and nobody was working on their own or had their own agenda. I really thank this community for what they did. That’s what makes me so proud to serve them.”

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