It was an emotional reunion Wednesday when Autumn Cooley spoke with the Caltrans maintenance worker who rescued her during a freak storm last winter.
“[They] just took good care of me and I would just like to thank them for that,” said Cooley.
Cooley set out for a drive to Wrightwood, but somewhere along State Highway 2 through the Angeles National Forest, she ran out of gas.
“My only choice was to walk, so I started walking and about that time, my cell phone battery went dead,” said Cooley.
To make things worse, it began to snow.
Cooley grew disoriented. That’s when she says she lost her way and her shoes.
“There was no way out, it was pretty scary…pretty traumatic for me,” Cooley said. “It was getting dark and I had to find some place to settle down.”
Barefoot and afraid, the LA county woman hunkered down next to a tree and waited, hoping someone would find her, before she froze to death.
The next morning, during a routine snow removal, Barry Morrison and his crew spotted Autumn.
“I looked around and I saw something sitting in the snow, I thought it was a bear and it was Autumn sittin’ on her backside waving her arms,” said Morrison.
Morrison and his colleagues hiked 300 feet through an eight-foot snow bank to reach Autumn.
“I remember them coming to my aid. They started taking their clothes off. Barry took off his Caltrans suit and gave it to me to get warm. Someone took off their socks and put them on my feet. Someone gave me their lunch,” said Cooley.
After a few minutes, Wrightwood firefighters arrived to render medical aid and brought Cooley to a hospital.
“It was a blessing even though it was a nightmare,” said Cooley.
Ironically, Cooley wore a shirt that night with the word ‘hope’ on it. Something she says she kept that night with hopes of being found alive.
Published at 11:37 PM PDT on Aug 3, 2011 | Updated at 11:31 PM PDT on Aug 4, 2011