Helicopter scrambled to rescue maverick berry picker

Take note – story published 9 years ago

A full scale search for a berry picker had a happy ending Wednesday when the missing 84-year-old woman was found alive and well – but not before a helicopter had been used to track her down.

“Where am I?” - a reasonable question in the circumstances – were among her first words to rescuers, LTV reported.

Having embarked on her fruit-seeking expedition without a cellphone on Tuesday morning, the family of the woman from Rugaju district in Latgale raised the alarm when she did not return home.

With the help of neighbors and a police dog unit a posse was quickly mustered to begin a search of her favourite haunts.

With no success by nightfall, the search resumed Wednesday morning, this time with the aid of a helicopter of the Border Guard service.

"[We saw her with] a white rag on her head, in a bright dress, leaning against a tree. The helicopter landed 350 metres away in a clearing. She was happy and conscious. She knew me, as I'm her neighbor, and asked 'Where am I?'” forest ranger Peteris Dauksts told LTV.

The elderly lady was tired and mosquito-bitten but in otherwise good shape and is expected to suffer no ill effects of her ordeal.

The authorities advise berry-pickers to take a cellphone when they venture into the woods and to tell someone else when they plan to return.

Latvia's fields and forests are full of berry and mushroom pickers from late spring to late fall, with the craze for wild food a national obsession, particularly among the elderly.

The phenomenon has even been immortalised on film in the classic Latvian movie 'Tās dullās Paulīnes dēļ' (All for the sake of crazy Pauline), the story of two mushroom-mad old ladies.

The most remote areas often provide the richest pickings and pickers themselves often jealously guard the exact location of their favorite picking sites.

It is easy to become disoriented in Latvia's extensive forests and every year dozens of pickers go missing - though most eventually find their way back to civilization without the need for air support.

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