KOKADJO, Maine — Two snowmobilers are credited with rescuing a South Portland woman who drove to this remote northwestern township and somehow got her car stuck in the mud on a snowmobile trail.
Beverly Rutherford was shivering and had lost one boot during her overnight walk when the unidentified men found her at about 10 a.m. Friday on the ITS 86 snowmobile trail two to three miles from her car. Police and wardens list her age as 75 or 76.
The men persuaded her to get on one of the snowmobiles and took Rutherford to a local camp and then by pickup truck to the Kokadjo Store.
“Other than the raw foot she was in pretty good health; I think the walking is what kept her blood circulating,” Game Warden Mike Favreau said Friday. “We know all too well how this could have ended.”
Favreau said the area, located about 18 miles north of Greenville, is remote and at this time of year there typically wouldn’t be anyone on the trail until Memorial Day. “By the grace of God we go and thank God those fellas were up there.”
On Friday, Rutherford’s family reported they had not heard from her for three days, although neighbors said they saw her Thursday.
South Portland police put Rutherford’s name into a missing and wanted persons database. Minutes later, the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office called and told them the woman had been found about 18 miles north of Greenville.
Favreau said no one knows why she traveled in the direction of Kokadjo and ended up there Thursday night. “She wasn’t of sound mind,” the warden said.
Favreau believes Rutherford drove onto the snowmobile trail late in the day when the trail was very hard. “We had a hard time finding her tire tracks,” he said, adding she had driven the car more than two miles on the trail before it got stuck. “It’s amazing she got as far in as she did.”
Rutherford told Favreau that she had thought it was strange there was so much snow in the area when Portland didn’t have any. “It really bewildered her but she keeps on going and going and didn’t even realize she’s on a snowmobile trail,” he said.
In recalling the incident, Favreau said Rutherford told him she couldn’t stop the “spinning.” That puzzled Favreau until he realized she was talking about her tire. He said Rutherford’s driver’s side tire got stuck and kept spinning. “Boy, if she had reached with her hands to grab that tire, that would have sucked her in like a con-veyer belt,” he said.
While Rutherford told wardens she had slept in her car, they believe that when she couldn’t get the car to move, she locked it up and started walking in the wrong direction. At some point, she turned around and came back to the vehicle and then walked toward where she had first entered the trail with the car, he said.
Favreau said Rutherford must have started walking in the dark and must have walked at least two miles altogether. If the two snowmobilers hadn’t been in the area, he said, Rutherford would have perished.
Even at the store, Rutherford said she didn’t want to go by ambulance and was bothered by the “fuss,” Favreau said. “She was a wonderful lady, very pleasant, very chatty,” he recalled. “We really tried to keep her in a good mood. We had to talk her into going with the ambulance and going for treatment” at Charles A. Dean Memorial Hospital in Greenville.
The warden said she was being treated for the injuries to her foot. Workers at the hospital declined to provide information about Rutherford’s condition later Friday.
Fred and Marie Candeloro, who alerted wardens after the snowmobilers brought Rutherford to the store, worked to warm up the elderly woman.
“After trying to convince her for 15 minutes to take her wet pants off, I finally got some dry clothes on her, wool socks and some warm clothes,” Marie Candeloro said Friday.
Favreau said Candeloro had dressed Rutherford in Kokadjo sweat shirts and her nightgown to keep her warm until the ambulance arrived.
“These stores up in the woods become the central location,” Favreau said. These locations are where the help goes, where the injured go, where the calls for help originate, and the ambulance responds, he said. “It becomes a way of life for them, rescuing lost souls in the woods.”