Woman, 83, survives swamp ordeal

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The Independent US

They make them tough down in South Florida and none tougher, it would seem, than Tillie Tooter.

They make them tough down in South Florida and none tougher, it would seem, than Tillie Tooter.

The 83-year old survived when her car plunged 30 feet into a snake and alligator infested jungle of mangrove and willow trees. Then she stayed alive for three days and nights of 100-degree heat, leaving with no more than some bad bruising, a lot of insect bites and dehydration.

Mrs Tooter's nightmare began when she set off to collect her granddaughter from Fort Lauderdale airport on Saturday. As she drove down the highway she was struck from behind by a car so hard that her Toyota climbed up the side wall of the road and tumbled over. It flipped three times and landed on the driver's side, leaving her hanging from her seatbelt.

She seems to have shown great presence of mind. She collected water in a steering wheel cover and hung a pair of socks out of a window to collect the dew. She has a history of heart disease and diabetes but the fact she had no broken bones, had some access to water and was out of direct sunlight helped keep her alive. She had no food beyond a peppermint and a cough drop. "She would suck on one for a while, take it out and save it for later," said a nurse.

Thousands of cars must have passed by during the next three days but none saw or heard Mrs Tooter dozens of feet below. She wrote a goodbye note to her family, just in case.

Her granddaughter had reported her missing and police had searched the area. On Tuesday a man clearing rubbish from the roadside saw the car.

Fire fighters abseiled downand found her sprawled in the back seat. A team of 25 worked through the foot-deep swamp to cut down trees to get to the car, then cut off the roof to release her. Doctors said she was in serious condition but was expected to make a full recovery.

"This lady had it all together," said the Fort Lauderdale firechief, Stephen McInerny. "That may have made a difference between surviving and dying."