TRACY (CBS13) – An 85-year-old missing man with dementia was found by sheer chance.
For nine hours, Theoda Harrison was cold, wet and alone in his car along the train tracks in Tracy.
He drove 200 miles away from his hometown outside of Bakersfield. His family had been looking for him since Saturday.
“If they see a person that looks like him, call him “Paw Paw” and if he responds, that’s him,” Angela Toliver, Theoda Harrison’s granddaughter, said.
She said Harrison had been missing from their home in Wasco. He had recently been diagnosed with early-onset dementia.
“We know that during dusk or sundown, he gets extremely nervous. We were scared for him,” she said.
Harrison is not supposed to drive. He somehow ended up in Tracy with his car stuck in the mud. But, the temperature was dropping and it was getting dark.
“In my heart, I didn’t feel he was gone, but he needed to be found soon,” said Toliver.
San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Deputy Leo Cagulada was on patrol, in a different part of town. He spotted the top of a tan sedan out of the corner of his eye.
“It was really, really busy at the time,” Cagulada said. “I noticed this car, it was a little bit fogged up. There was condensation which made me think there may have been someone in it.”
Cagulada walked up to the car, not sure if he’d see someone in it, alive.
“My heart was pumping, I didn’t really want that to happen, especially when I opened the door, and he didn’t wake up,” he said.
But Harrison was there, asleep.
“He wasn’t really sure how he got there or how long he’d been there,” Cagulada said.
He’d been inside the car for nine hours and needed medical help. Cagulada called for backup.
“We carried him out through the mud, over the tracks and back across the field to the ambulance.”
Harrison was taken to the hospital, where family members met him, with a familiar face.
“It’s the best Christmas gift that I ever had. I got my Paw Paw back,” said Toliver.
Harrison is expected to be okay, suffering dehydration, but is being treated at Sutter Hospital in Tracy.