An 8-year-old girl walked for hours to try to find help for her mom after the family’s car went in a ditch and the two got stranded in the Georgia woods for days.
The young girl — who was covered in bug bites and scratches — eventually found a man who was out metal detecting in the area who called 911, but by the time authorities were able to find the girl’s mom, Mandy Michelle Morehouse, she had died, authorities said.
“It’s been kind of an emotional case for our folks just the way it all happened,” Jon Long, chief deputy at Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, told Oxygen.com.
Long said Morehouse, 32, and her 8-year-old daughter had been driving along a dirt road in the middle of the woods when the car slipped off into the ditch and became “disabled” at some point.
“She couldn’t go any further, so her and the child got out and started walking and they walked for a pretty good distance and then turned down this path and I think one thing led to another,” Long said. “They got disoriented for whatever reason.”
Authorities said the pair spent Sunday and Monday night in the woods. The child decided at some point to strike out on her own, eventually making her way back to the same dirt road where the car had gone into the ditch, Long said.
Johnathan Austin had been in the area using his metal detector when he noticed a small child walking alone and asked her if something was wrong.
The child told Austin that she and her mother had gotten lost in the woods and that she had been unable to wake her mom up after they had taken a nap. She said her mom had been “blue” so she went to look for help, according to an incident report obtained by Oxygen.com.
The young girl was able to tell authorities where the car had gone into the ditch using landmarks she had seen. She also remembered a number she had seen painted on a tree near her mother’s location and provided it to authorities.
Long said timber companies in the area often mark trees or boundaries in certain areas to help them navigate.
“Once the search was pinned down to that particular area, an aerial search was underway and they actually spotted the mom from the air,” Long said.
Authorities credit the young girl with helping to find her mother’s location.
“She was very well composed and had her thoughts together considering what she’d been through,” Long said. “It was pretty obvious that she had been in the woods. She was scratched up a lot and bug bites all over, so, she’d been through quite an experience.”
Long said officials are still working to determine Morehouse's cause of death.
“There will be an autopsy that will hopefully help us answer some of those questions,” he said.
The child, who suffered only minor scrapes and bug bites, was reunited with her grandfather at the scene.
Morehouse had been reported missing to authorities by a family member in neighboring Long County on Sunday. It’s not clear whether that report had been made before or after the car went into the ditch.
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