Posted by Waikato Police on 22/04/2012
Whitianga Police and the family of a missing elderly woman are crediting the selfless efforts of a neighbour and strong local community spirit for the locating and rescue of the woman this morning.
Constable Don Edgecombe of the Whitianga Police said 70-year-old Whitianga woman, Shirley Loft, hadn't been seen since Thursday morning when she had told her brother she was taking her Ford Taurus car for a drive.
"Obviously friends and family had become very concerned for her safety and this morning neighbour Geoff Gillett and his friend Valance McLaughlin went to search for Shirley. "At about 9.00am while they were looking for her on Blackjack Rd, Kuaotunu, that they noticed scuff marks on the edge of a drop at a rest area and climbed down to investigate."
Mr Edgecombe said when the pair found a car bumper they thought could be the same colour as the missing car they decided to climb down a bit further and it was then they located Mrs Loft's car.
"The pair found Shirley sitting under a tree, after her car had crashed over the edge she had managed to extract herself from the vehicle. When found she was conscious and able to talk but disorientated, hungry and very thirsty. "While Mr McLaughlin climbed back up the 200m bank to raise the alarm Mr Gillett stayed with Shirley to comfort her and before long members of the Kuaotunu and Whitianga Volunteer Fire Brigades arrived along with local ambulance crews to begin the prolonged recovery effort."
Mrs Loft was winched aboard a hovering rescue helicopter that had responded from Auckland to the call for assistance and she was flown to Thames Hospital to be treated for minor injuries to her legs.
"On behalf of her family Shirley's son David and her brother Des said they would like to thank all the emergency services, friends and members of the local community who assisted in the successful locating and rescue. "But both they and Police would like to reserve the greatest gratitude to the efforts to Mr Gillett and Mr McLaughlin who's efforts in this case were definitely life saving."
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