The 71-year-old New Jersey woman who vanished on Christmas Eve while driving to North Carolina with her 5-year-old great-granddaughter remained in serious condition at a Virginia hospital Thursday after being found in a wooded area Wednesday, according to media reports.
Barbara Briley and her great-granddaughter, La’Myra Briley, were found alive shortly before 5 p.m. Wednesday in Virginia, but the mystery grows surrounding what happened during their four-day road trip from New Jersey to Morven in Anson County.
The search included law enforcement in multiple states and the FBI. But Briley and the child were ultimately found by accident 230 miles from their intended destination. A landowner stumbled onto their car in a wooded area in Dinwiddie County, Va.
The car was seven miles from Interstate 85. The landowner had seen news reports, realized who the Brileys were and called 911, Maj. William Knott of the Dinwiddie Sheriff’s Office told the Richmond Times Dispatch.
“This person probably saved them,” Knott said.
Officials said they don’t suspect foul play.
Barbara Briley was unconscious when she was found, reports said. Her great-grandchild was alert and appeared unharmed. Barbara Briley regained consciousness and was flown to VCU Medical Center by Med-Flight helicopter for treatment, according to WTVR in Richmond. La’Myra received a medical evaluation at the scene and was released to a family member.
The Dinwiddie County Sheriff’s Office and Virginia State Police were dispatched to the scene after the property owner called authorities. The silver Toyota Rav4 driven by Briley was parked about 1.5 miles off the main road and 45 feet off a dirt path.
Police believe Briley followed the dirt road about three-tenths of a mile before pulling off into the woods. At one point, she drove over a small tree and attempted to back up, but the Rav4 got stuck, the Times Dispatch reported.
Investigators said it appears the two were there for several days but were sustained by their snacks. Virginia State Police told reporters that they found juice boxes, apples and other food items near the scene.
Prior to the Brileys having been found Wednesday evening, a niece of Barbara Briley’s told the Times-Dispatch that her aunt used to work as a driver for New Jersey Transit and had made the nine-hour trip to North Carolina numerous times.
“Driving is not an issue when it comes to my Aunt Barbara,” Ginger Bittle said.