MANSFIELD, Ohio –A 73-year-old man Mansfield man says he prayed to be rescued, after spending more than 24 hours stuck in his motorized wheelchair, trapped in rising floodwaters.
“When they found me I was sitting in my chair and it was floating around in that water,” explained Wendell Jefferson, sitting in his bed. “The water was up around my waist.”
Police say Jefferson has dementia and was reported missing by his family Saturday after he was last seen around noon.
Family members say he often travels in his wheelchair around the neighborhood, but they began to worry when Jefferson didn’t return hours after the charge on his wheelchair allows.
“I can only imagine what he was going through, feeling helpless because he cannot get out and about, nobody coming to his aide and being out overnight,” said Mansfield Police Captain Doug Noblet.
According to Mansfield police, Jefferson was pushed off the sidewalk into a remote area off of Springmill Street by floodwaters. Jefferson says his wheel got stuck in the mud and despite calling out for help, he could not be heard.
“Well, God, if you help me get out of this I’ll never do anything this stupid again,” said Jefferson, recalling how he kept alert.
Jefferson’s grandson says he located his grandfather Sunday just before 3 p.m.
“When we saw him he was sitting in his chair in the water; he was kinda of leaning to the side,” said Fashaun Fields. “We were kind of scared he might have tipped over.”
Mansfield police deployed its Unmanned Aerial System or drone unit to capture Jefferson’s rescue. They urge people to keep a close eye on loved ones diagnosed with dementia.
“Oh, I don’t think he’s going to ride in that wheelchair no more,” said Jefferson’s wife, Venetia, with a laugh.