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Death of 83-year-old Bedford County woman ruled accidental drowning

Lina "Pat" Toot had Sundowners

BEDFORD COUNTY, Va.UPDATE

A medical examiner has ruled that Lina "Pat" Toot died of accidental drowning. 

UPDATE

After five long days of wondering, Lina "Pat" Toot's family got news they did not want to hear.

"It was very difficult over the weekend to see them wondering, 'Where could she be?'" It was comforting to know we can give them some news today," said  Janet Blackenship, deputy chief of the Bedford County Department of Fire and Rescue.

Bedford County's Search and Rescue Special Response Team found the 83-year-old's body in the Stoney Fork Creek area, not far from her home.

It's a body of water the special response team couldn't check over the weekend because of the heavy rain and high water levels.

"The mission this morning in contengient of the special operations folks we go back through recheck the areas they had concerns that they couldn't get a very clear picture," Jack Jones Jr., chief of Bedford Co. Dept. Fire and Rescue, said.

Toot had sundowners syndrome, a form of Alzheimer's. Investigators said she wandered away from her Moneta home last Thursday night.

The Bedford County Sheriff's Office wants families who have older loved ones or any family member with neurological issues to invest in a free wristband called, "Project Lifesaver." It's a device Toot did not have.

"This beeping noise this is how you track them down. The louder it gets, the closer you know you're getting to the client," Capt. Tim Hayden, with the Bedford County Sheriff's Office, said, "If someone goes missing, we can get our team together, and we can also get surrounding jurisdictions together because they have the same equipment."

As for a Bedford County family who won't get to see their loved one again, the Sheriff's Office said:  "You're still in our hearts and prayers. This is going to be a hard journey, but we're there with you. And we're there with all of our community."

The Sheriff's Office does not suspect foul play but said Toot's death is still under investigation.

Her body will be taken to the medical examiner's office to find the official cause of death.

ORIGINAL STORY

An 83-year-old Moneta woman has been found dead after an intensive search. 

Lina "Pat" Toot was discovered at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in a creek a half mile away from her home, where she lived alone. She was reported missing on Friday.

Toot had Sundowners, a state of confusion that is most often found in people who have dementia or Alzheimer's disease. It particularly affects people after sundown, as the name would suggest. 

Crews weedwacked through bushes as part of the land search, while divers checked the waters and drones flew overhead. Toot's property spanned 250 acres, so there was quite a bit of area to cover. 

The creek, normally only a few inches deep, had swelled to five or six feet, according to Kevin Mustgrove, deputy task force leader for Bedford Fire Search and Rescue.

Crews say they searched this area several times last weekend, but due to heavy rains, the streams were flowing outside their banks, making it impossible to search the waters thoroughly.  

Authorities say this remains under investigation, but that there is no reason to suspect any foul play. Her body is being sent to the Chief Medical Examiner's Office to determine the cause of death.