Missing woman survived by sleeping in deer stands, drinking creek water

The white Jeep Liberty driven by Victoria Hudson, who was found safe on Saturday after being missing for two day (Photo by Ryan Phillips, SDN)

“I’m never letting her out of my sight again,” Glenda Hudson laughed joyfully, just a few hours after being reunited with her daughter, Victoria, a 23-year-old Ole Miss student who had been missing in a heavily-wooded area of southwest Clay County since Thursday.

Glenda said her daughter, who was found Saturday morning, was released from the emergency room in the late afternoon after she was given fluids and treated for dehydration. Despite exhaustion from the elements, she is expected to make a full recovery after spending two days in the woods.

The mother then expressed her gratitude to the volunteers and emergency crews who spent two daunting days in the heat searching through snake and hog-invested bottom land along a Tennessee Valley Authority transmission line.

“I was so excited, I didn’t know what to do,” she said Saturday evening. “My heart was overflowing.”

Hudson also took to Facebook to respond after she was found.

“Thanks everyone that prayed for me, txted or called,” she said. “I’m just thankful I’m still here.”

Clay County Sheriff Eddie Scott, whose agency is handling the investigation, said Victoria Hudson was found walking in an area that had already been searched. This comes after police say Hudson drove through a locked gate in the early morning hours Thursday and out along the TVA power line before running headlong into a shallow creek.

“Overall she was in pretty good health, she seemed like she did have some dehydration and the ambulance took her on,” he said. “She told me herself she drank some water out of some creeks and ponds and she was getting into the deer shooting houses at night, out of the elements. I think overall she used some common sense when she got out there.”

While the Air Force and TVA both contributed helicopters to the aerial search efforts, those on the ground faced tall grass and overgrowth covering a long stretch of hunting club property dotted with tree stands and shooting houses.

Scott initially credited Hudson’s phone photos of the power lines as crucial to finding where the vehicle was. Despite 911 urging Hudson to stay by the car after her phone powered off at 7:33 a.m. Thursday morning, Scott says she set out on foot for reasons investigators were still trying to piece together on Saturday.

“We’re going to debrief her, we’ve got to have some more details and ask her how she got down there and what happened from there, but the main thing is she was found and is safe,” Scott said. “But it’s just a combined effort of all these agencies to make it happen. There’s no way we could have done it on our own.”

The search encompassed a rugged swath of southwest Clay County, near the Cedarbluff community. The road Hudson drove down was a private road off of the sparsely-populated Mhoon Valley Road, where multiple agencies and the Mississippi Task Force set up a makeshift command post.

Dozens of volunteers showed up on ATVs to aid in the search, along with agencies from as far as DeSoto County adding the efforts.

Clay County Emergency Management Director Torrey Williams oversaw the search efforts and said they were particularly impressed with the way the operation came together and the teamwork that made it possible to find Hudson.

“We had a lot of assets come from all over the state and all over the community together and offer their assistance, whether it was in-kind donations, or even their time to help with the operations,” he said.

When the Sheriff realized the search after Hudson went missing would become a rescue operation, he also called in the Mississippi Task Force, made up of area law enforcement, fire and emergency officials.

Stewart Bird, battalion chief for the Starkville Fire Department and deputy task force leader with the Mississippi Task Force, was part of the search efforts and said weather played a big factor in their search with thunderstorms putting a damper on the operation Friday afternoon and into the evening.

(Hudson’s) very resilient for her to get where she was and have enough sense to climb up in the tree stands at night. I think all that saved her, “ Bird said. “They said there are a lot of hogs down there and snakes, so for her to have the presence of mind to get up in the tree stands, I think that did a lot for her and she was drinking water out of the ditches so she was in her right mind and knew what to do to keep herself going.”

Both Scott and Bird agreed this search and rescue operation had a positive ending and will serve as a valuable training experience for all of the agencies who participated.

“We’re trying to get better at that, they don’t always turn out this way and it’s a blessing from god we found her like we did,” Bird said. “Being 23 years old, she’s young and from the country out here, so she was willing to trek through the woods and try to find a way out.”

“It’s a training tool,” Scott echoed. “All of these different agencies out here will use this scenario as a training tool. It’s been a stressful event but I’m just glad it’s over and done with.”