INDIAN RIVER SHORES — Two officers said they trekked through a waist-deep, muddy canal to save a missing Alzheimer’s patient who fell face-first into the water and did not resurface.
The woman’s disappearance launched an extensive multi-agency search that lasted for several hours overnight on June 9.
“Our first relief was that she was actually alive,” Indian River Shores Public Safety Officers Jake Maikranz and Dustin Crouch said. “Our first thoughts were to go get her and help her.”
Officers Maikranz and Dustin Crouch only had lighting from the glow of the moon and their flashlights as they combed through a John’s Island subdivision early June 9 to search for the 79-year-old woman. The unidentified woman wandered from her home to another home – about five to 10 houses down – that has a canal toward the back .
“It was pitch black. We walked toward a mangrove and heard a big splash. We shined our flashlight and spotted her,” Maikranz and Crouch said. “Her toes were a blueish color and she was cold.” Officers said the woman had previously before wandered away to the home where she was found.
Officers with the Indian River Shores Public Safety Department are triple-certified in law enforcement, firefighting and emergency medical services.
Police have responded to numerous incidents where they found missing Alzheimer’s patients, according to Shores Public Safety Director Rich Rosell. But, this was the first incident in the area where officers have rescued a patient that was trapped in the water.
It’s unclear how long the woman was in the four-foot deep canal.
Shores officers responded to reports of an Alzheimer’s patient who left her home about 11 p.m. June 9 in the 500 block of Coconut Palm Road. Shores police, along with three Indian River County sheriff’s deputies, a sheriff’s helicopter and two K-9 officers searched most of the homes in the area for several hours.
“We were driving around hoping we would find her,” Maikranz and Crouch said.
Then Maikranz and Crouch said they got a call about 2 a.m. the next morning from Captain Mark Shaw telling them to check a home down the street. The officers said they searched the outside of the unoccupied home and saw that all the doors and windows were locked.
Maikranz and Crouch then walked behind the home, where they found the woman struggling in the waist-deep canal near a neighbor’s dock. The officers said they hopped into the muddied water and called the woman’s name.
The disoriented woman was 20 feet away as she struggled to walk toward the officers. The woman, who wore a striped white and blue shirt with blue shorts and no shoes, slipped and fell face-first into the water, officers said.
Maikranz and Crouch were able to reach the woman and pulled her up to a dock. Officers then took the woman toward the front of the home, where she received treatment.
The woman was then taken to the Indian River Medical Center. An update on her condition and if she has been released from the hospital were not available.
“Usually the outcome (of these types of cases) don’t come out like this one did,” Maikranz and Crouch said. “We were very fortunate to find her.”