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Lori Prichard reportingAn 84-year-old Sandy woman, possibly suffering from dementia, was found Tuesday afternoon in some bushes down a steep hill. Rescuers believe she'd been there for 24 hours.
The woman's neighbor, Sheryl Snarr, said, "As a neighborhood, we know of her age and her circumstances, and we tend to look out for her." In fact, it was a neighbor who prompted the rescue effort in Willow Creek as firefighters and sheriff's deputies tried to save the elderly woman who had fallen more than 200 feet down the hill.
Despite the heroic efforts to rescue her, Mari Draper has since died. Police say she died 20 minutes after arriving at the hospital. It's certainly not the ending rescue crews and neighbors were hoping for.
Neighbors we spoke with tell us Draper may have been a little frail, but she was full of spunk. No one knows how long she was lying halfway down the hill, waiting for help. What we do know is the last time someone saw her was on Sunday. Tuesday, a neighbor went looking for her.
Sgt. Bob Rogers, with the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office, said, "They'd come by the house to check on her, and she was nowhere to be found. Our deputies arrived on scene, and a quick observation by one of our deputies in her backyard was able to see her body lying in the brush."
The terrain was steep and the ravine snow-covered, but deputies and firefighters jumped to action to get the woman help. Deputies say she was still alive when they found her, but barely. Sgt. Rogers said, "She was in very critical condition and within hours of death."
The untold hours she spent lying there, mixed with the rain and snow, took their toll. Draper didn't live long after rescue crews found her.
Sheryl Snarr has lived next door to Draper for more than 18 years. When she saw the emergency crews, she knew immediately they were there for her neighbor. "I knew something had happened, but I certainly hadn't expected she had fallen down the hill."
No one knows how she fell, but Snarr says Draper kept a garden just steps away from the steep slope. "She might have been throwing weeds over or clipping something, I don't know. But yesterday was a beautiful day. I don't know if this happened yesterday afternoon or this morning, but it breaks my heart to think that she was out there all night," Snarr said.
Deputies say it's nothing short of a miracle they even found her. It had only begun snowing when they went looking for her, so the heavy snow had not yet had a chance to cover her body.