MONTEREY, Va. – Witnesses saw a tearful reunion as family members were reunited with Martha Bates and her teenage daughter Mary.
The two had been missing since Sunday when they failed to arrive at Camp Carlo, a summer camp in West Virginia. Their last known location was where one of their cell phones pinged near Monterey in Highland County.
The disappearance sparked a desperate search by police, and family members, certain that something had gone wrong.
“She’s a very stable person so unlike her to disappear, she’s not a person who is volatile at all. I mean she’s stable,” said cousin Laura Chapman who was among those searching near Monterey.
And something had gone wrong.
“We’ve been living in our car, going to the bathroom in the woods,” Martha said.
“We basically ran out of food today,” her daughter, Mary said. “Car’s dead, there’s no food ...”
“We got stuck in the mud and couldn’t get out and have been stuck there ever since,” Martha continued.
At one point searchers were close but didn’t know it.
“We had been in that area on Tuesday, probably within a mile of where the car is at, and she can maneuver the car very well, because I was in a 4-wheel drive pickup, and it was a little tense there,” said Ronald Wilmer, Sheriff of Highland County.
Wilmer said crews turned around not believing the women could have driven on the road because it was so rough they did not believe it could be driven on by a non-four-wheel drive vehicle.
The mom and daughter, who were following directions from a GPS, took a wrong turn. Ironically, that’s what led searchers back to them.
“I just entered the route from where we last knew where they were ... took some options where it rerouted me, and ended up in a pretty remote area in the northern part of the county up on top of the mountain,” said Billy Chrimes, Search and Rescue Coordinator with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.
Chrimes found the pair – out of food, and out of hope – dragging their suitcases down the dirt road, having walked about two miles. They had decided to try to walk back to the highway.
When asked how it felt to see help coming, Martha Bates was overwhelmed.
“It was so wonderful. I started crying, and I was so glad that he was here because we are so glad to be back. I was jumping up and down.”
To Chrimes she said, “Thank you. Thank you so much ... thank you from the bottom of my heart, we’ve already told him thank you so much. He told us we made his year, but he made our year too. We’re here because he found us.”
After rejoining the family, and assuring everyone they were all right, Chrimes was sure to give them back their belongings.
“I cried almost every night. Yeah, we did, we cried but we kept each other strong. We knew we would be back, we said our prayers, and we knew it would work out.”
You can watch the full interview here.