Missing woman found on raft

2009-08-19 13:19

Iowa City - A 63-year-old woman trapped on a small raft caught in tangled river brush could hear passing cars and people talking but wasn't discovered until a fisherman on his way to his favourite hole spotted her five days later, the woman's son said on Tuesday.

Jeanne Schnepp's odyssey began last week with a fishing trip on a tiny inflatable raft along the Wapsipinicon River. But when the Iowa woman found herself on raging waters that nearly flooded the banks, she partially deflated the raft and headed for the side.

Water masked the brush, which caught the raft and held it - and Schnepp - for five days before rescuers pulled her from the river on Monday afternoon.

"She's always out doing something that she probably shouldn't have been doing," her son, Clint Schnepp, 33, said on Tuesday. "Like this."

Even when the river receded, Jeanne Schnepp remained caught. The river banks grew farther away as Schnepp sank, trapped between a 3.5m wall of rocks and a logjam she couldn't climb over.

With only two cans of Mountain Dew and a bottle of water, Schnepp shouted herself hoarse. The brush was a couple hundred metres from a concrete bridge. Clint Schnepp said his mother could see cars driving over it.

So, she waited in just a tank-top and shorts, exposed to constant sun, two thunderstorms, hot days and cold nights. The brush was "out in the middle of nowhere", Clint Schnepp said, so passers-by were scant.

'No one could see or hear me'

"She said, 'I heard the cars, I heard people talking,"' Clint Schnepp said. "She was in a place where 'no one could see me, no one could hear me.' If you weren't on that bank directly above her looking down, she was hidden."

Rescuers spent days in and out of the water near where Jeanne Schnepp had left her car, about 2km upstream. Her purse was there; her fishing gear was gone.

Clint and his brother Corey went out on the river in small boats, but struggled as their spotlights overheated and shut off. Worse, the Jones County sheriff's office's boat was out of commission.

After days with no sign, Schnepp's sons' search for their mother became a search for a body.

But as Jeanne Schnepp's luck would have it, she was caught near local angler Larry William's fishing hole.

"He just went out to go fishing, apparently he walked by the snag because he always fished that little eddy," Clint Schnepp said. "Out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw something, then he actually went back to check it out, and lo and behold.

"He said, 'Oh my God, you're that lady they've been looking for!'"

Jeanne Schnepp was sunburned, covered in bug bites and scratches, and severely dehydrated. But Clint Schnepp said his mother was on her feet on Tuesday. She remained hospitalised, but was expected to be released within a couple of days.

"She's doing remarkably great," he said.