Woman, 79, Gets Lost on Way to Casino, Survives 5 Days in Desert

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She’s got Lady Luck on her side. A 79-year-old Arizona woman survived alone in the desert for nearly five days after getting lost while driving to a casino and falling down an embankment, police said. Ethel Crescenzo was found Sunday afternoon after a Silver Alert was issued in the Phoenix area, police told NBC affiliate KPNX. Few details were released about her ordeal, but her family said her instinct to survive took over as she slept on boulders and took refuge under bushes after abandoning her car. “We got the call, ‘We found her and she’s alive,’” a teary-eyed family member told KPNX.

Crescenzo was last seen Oct. 14 leaving her home in the suburb of Surprise. She was supposed to head east toward Scottsdale but wound up west at the California border, KPNX reported. When she turned around, she got lost in the Sonoran Desert north of Surprise.

Police were alerted to the missing matriarch after someone reported seeing a white Chevy Monte Carlo with the personalized plate “ETHEL” left stranded. A Silver Alert was issued for Crescenzo — described as 5-foot-1 and 140 pounds — on Thursday. Authorities began a search of the area and a helicopter eventually spotted her down an embankment about 300 yards away from her car. She suffered scrapes and bruises in a fall, and was flown to a hospital, police said. Crescenzo was being treated Monday for dehydration. “All I can say about it is thank you for bringing momma home,” a family member said.


— Erik Ortiz