Missing woman, 3 kids found in Ocala National Forest

Tabitha Elliott, children airlifted to hospital

FORT McCOY, Fla. - A missing woman, her two children and another child were found in good health on Wednesday in the Ocala National Forest, deputies said.

[Scroll below for rescue video]

The woman and children were airlifted for medical evaluation, Marion County sheriff's deputies said.

According to the sheriff's office, Tabitha Elliott, 26, of Salt Springs, went to a friend's home on Northeast 91st Street in Fort McCoy on Tuesday and picked up her friend's 3-year-old boy with the intention of taking him for a ride with her own children, 2 1/2- year-old Mason and 10-month-old Lexie.

She said it's something she does often because the kids love it.

"They were having fun until the brush got too thick," said Elliott.

Elliott told deputies that she was driving the kids in her truck when it started acting funny in a deep part of the forest. She pulled over and the truck got stuck, so they left the truck and tried to walk to what she thought was Highway 19.

"After walking back to the truck and walking all ways in circles I couldn't find where I got in at," Elliott said.

Elliott said they had no food, no warm clothes and the kids had no shoes, so walking in the thick brush became unbearable. Elliott said she used duct tape to tape her feet and Owen's feet to continue their walk before camping out.

"The kids didn't have shoes and by carrying two (kids) I lost my shoes, so I taped my feet too," she said.

A small bonfire kept them warm overnight, as Owen's mother, Leah feared the worst and drove around with his blanket searching.

On Wednesday morning, Elliott tried to start the truck again but the search for her was already underway.

Elliott's truck was found near Routes 19 and 316 in Marion County near Lake Kerr, three miles into the Juniper Springs Wilderness area.

All four were found by the MCSO helicopter Wednesday afternoon.


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