HCSO helicopter rescues 71-year-old woman stuck in canal

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. - A 71-year-old woman was rescued after she went missing thanks to a heat signature from an HCSO aviation camera that pinpointed her in a canal.

Deputies searched for hours for 71-year-old Lillian Morales who had been diagnosed with dementia. She went walking to the store from her home in Palm River around 3:00 p.m. but never returned. At around 10:30 that night, a heat signature from an HCSO aviation camera pinpointed her in a nearby canal.

"She was disoriented, dehydrated. A lot of little mosquito bites. A lot of cuts, scrapes and bruises," her son, Manuel Del Valle, said.

The technology that allowed deputies to spot Morales has been in use with the sheriff's office since the middle 1980s. While they're planning to upgrade the system, HCSO says this rescue shows that it still works.

The sheriff's office was also quick to commend the pilots involved in the search. They were initially called off of the rescue mission due to weather. When the rain cleared, they went back to the area to continue searching.

"I honestly feel like these guys saved her life," Pilot Stuart O'Shannon said.

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