DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – A woman who was recently found naked in a storm drain claims she got lost and wandered the underground tunnels for weeks before she was rescued, but Delray Beach police say they have some doubts about her story.
An incident report from the department details how a passerby on Atlantic Avenue Tuesday morning heard yelling and realized the woman was trapped.
“I’m not sure, I don’t know (how she got down there), she was just screaming for help and the lady was walking, and I had my window down, I was driving and she heard her screaming, we heard her screaming,” the woman said in a 911 call.
In that same call, the 43-year-old woman who was in the drain can be heard saying she was not hurt. News 6 is not naming the woman because the police report indicates that she suffers from mental illness and addiction.
Delray Beach Fire Rescue crews were able to remove the grate to get access to the storm drain, which was about 8 feet deep. They then used a ladder and a harness to pull her out to safety.
She was taken to a hospital to be treated for dehydration and has since been released so she can recover at home with her mother, according to Delray Beach Police Department public information officer Ted White.
While at the hospital, she told officers that she was swimming in a canal near her boyfriend’s housing complex on March 3 when she noticed a doorway near the shallow part of the canal, so she entered and noticed a tunnel.
“She claimed that she became curious to where the tunnel led and continued to follow it. That tunnel led to another tunnel and so on until she realized that she was lost,” the report read.
Officers said she told them that she wandered around the tunnels for about 20 days until she saw some light and decided to sit down in the area where she was found because she could see people walking by.
According to White, she said she found an unopened can of Ginger Ale that she was able to drink but it’s unknown if she had anything to eat at all.
While the woman appeared lucid after she was rescued, White said officers aren’t sure how accurate her retelling of events really is.
“For someone to be down there for two or three weeks, there’s some skepticism, especially if somebody is not having an adequate amount of liquids to drink, food, so it would be very difficult to survive down there but that’s what she’s telling officers right now and that’s all we have to go on unless we find the information or any other means of disproving that. That’s where we are at at this point,” White said.
The woman’s mother said her daughter has “a history of doing odd things and making bad decisions” due to her mental health and substance abuse issues. She was a methadone patient and received her last dose the day before she went missing.
White said local organizations have been in contact with the woman to provide her with treatment resources.
While her story may seem questionable, White said it’s possible that we may never know what actually happened.
“I spoke with the officers who responded to the scene and they both agree this by far was the most bizarre incident they ever responded to. It remains a mystery as far as how long she had actually been down there but I don’t know if we’ll ever know that,” he said.
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding her disappearance, the woman is considered lucky to be alive.
“If we had any significant amount of rain in our area, which at times we do, it could have been a different story, she may not have survived being down there ... As you can imagine, if she was in a pipe that was smaller in diameter and we had a significant amount of rain she could have drowned down there or been severely injured,” White said.
Now that she’s recovering, White is hoping the woman will seek further treatment so something like this doesn’t happen again.
“We’re just mainly grateful that she was able to be rescued. I’m just glad that she’s recovering at home and hopefully she’ll get the services that she needs,” he said.
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