On Wednesday afternoon, Nyla Stanton walked out of Jefferson Community Health Center, started her car and drove away, going missing for several hours, which sparked a cross-county search to find her.
Chief of the Fairbury Police Department Chad Sprunk explained that they received the call that people were unable to locate Stanton around 2:40 p.m. Wednesday.
“We received a call about an elderly female, possibly with dementia or Alzheimer’s, just very confused, left the hospital here in Fairbury,” said Sprunk. “She got in her vehicle and took off, and nobody heard from her since. The family was very concerned, and they contacted law enforcement.”
Sprunk explained that the Fairbury Police Department issued an alert to other law enforcement agencies in the state, and contacted the media to spread information as quickly as possible. He stated that they also contacted the Nebraska State Patrol to have her listed as a missing person.
“Speaking with the family, it was confirmed that she does have Alzheimer’s, but that this was unusual for her to take off like this,” Sprunk said. “We contacted the media, and I also talked to some friends of mine who have airplanes. We had some airplanes up and searching for her. Unfortunately, they were unable to find her.”
After searching for several hours, the Fairbury Police Department received a call that Stanton was at a residence and that she appeared to be very scared.
“We sent law enforcement from the area to the residence, and found that she was unharmed,” said Sprunk. “We sent the family up there and they were reunited. It was a very good outcome.”
Sprunk noted that the person who owns the residence saw the missing person alert in the media. From there, he contacted law enforcement to let them know where she was located.
“It’s just amazing how with the media and with social media, once you get that pushed out, it just spreads so fast,” said Sprunk. “The outpouring of help was just outstanding. When I was with the family, there were quite a few people contacting them to offer help and to bring them food. People were wanting to go out searching for her. They were willing to do anything to help. It was just very touching to see, especially this time of the year. I guess for the family, it was a heck of a Christmas gift to get their mom back safe.”
Sprunk noted that there were several agencies involved in the search: the Fairbury Police Department, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Nebraska State Patrol and the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Office, as well as help from private citizens from the Fairbury Airport offering the use of their planes. Sprunk was grateful for all of the help from those agencies, and for all of the people who helped to share the information.
Although this was a frightening situation, Sprunk explained that it had a really positive ending. He is just glad that the family was reunited after Stanton went missing.
“Our major concern was we didn’t know how much fuel she had in her car,” Sprunk said. “Cold temperatures were coming, so this could have had a devastating ending, but it all turned out all right. She was found and reunited with her family, and that’s what matters. Everything everyone has done is greatly appreciated, even sharing the information. It’s the public that helps to get the information out there.”