Missing Florida woman rescued after nearly 3 weeks trapped in sewer

Delray Beach Fire Rescue remove a grate to access a storm drain and use a ladder and a harness to raise a trapped woman to ground level on Tuesday.
Delray Beach Fire Rescue remove a grate to access a storm drain and use a ladder and a harness to raise a trapped woman to ground level on Tuesday.

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

A Florida woman who vanished nearly three weeks ago was finally discovered earlier this week — naked and trapped in an underground storm drain, where she was ultimately rescued.

The 43-year-old woman, reported missing by her boyfriend on March 3, was calling out for help this past Tuesday from a culvert in Delray Beach when a passerby heard her screams and called authorities.

The woman, who reportedly has a history of mental illness and drug abuse, was taken to Delray Medical Center after the harrowing ordeal, and she was not identified. Hospital officials would not reveal her condition.

It was not clear if the woman had been in the storm drain the entire time she was missing or how she wound up in the predicament in the first place, reports said.

“She claims that she’s been in the storm drain for a significant amount of time,” Delray Beach Police spokesman Ted White said, according to the Sun-Sentinel. “The biggest question is how long she has been in there, how did she get in there and why?”

Another woman driving in the area with her windows down heard someone in distress, howling from the sewer and pulled to the side of the road, reports said.

She then spotted the unclothed woman sitting 8 feet below ground level and immediately called 911, reports said.

Firefighters soon arrived and, after removing a storm grate, pulled the woman to safety using a ladder and a harness, reports said. A small crowd of onlookers began cheering as the woman came into view.

Delray Beach Fire Rescue remove a grate to access a storm drain and use a ladder and a harness to raise a trapped woman to ground level on Tuesday.
Delray Beach Fire Rescue remove a grate to access a storm drain and use a ladder and a harness to raise a trapped woman to ground level on Tuesday.

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

“She was unable to stand up,” Delray Beach Fire Rescue spokeswoman Dani Moschella told WPLG. “She didn’t have any clothes on. She was very dirty. She had some superficial wounds. Her knees were all scraped up.”

The woman’s boyfriend had filed a missing-person report with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office nearly three weeks earlier, saying she was asleep when he left for work but was gone by the time he returned home. Reports said her cellphone and purse had been left behind, adding to the mystery.

The woman told officials that she had gotten lost after entering a series of tunnels she encountered while swimming in a canal near her boyfriend’s house, reports said. From there, she said she wandered the sewer system for 20 days, surviving on an unopened bottle of ginger ale, until she finally saw a light from a storm grate, which was the spot where she was ultimately found. It was 3 miles from where she first entered the sewer tunnel, reports said.

Police are continuing to look into her story.

“We don’t feel that there was any crime committed,” said White, the Delray police spokesman. “But the biggest question is, is her story credible? Was she actually down there the whole time?”

He added that foul play was not suspected.

“From the police department standpoint, we don’t believe there was any type of crime committed,” White said. “It doesn’t feel like she was taken against her will. It appears this was done by her own free will.”

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