by Carla Noah Stutsman
Azle Police Chief Randy Reed called it the best of all possible outcomes.
A 61-year-old Springtown woman, missing for more than 12 hours, was found alive after an all-night, all-out search locally.
Donna Johnstone may have suffered from confusion and disorientation caused from medications when she parked her car in a driveway on North Broadway Avenue in Azle and embarked on foot late Monday, June 17, a family spokesperson said.
The man said Johnstone had surgery about 10 days ago, and he feared a pain pump and additional medications had left her confused and disoriented. He said she had not previously shown signs or symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
For almost two hours, family members talked with Johnstone via her cell phone but could not determine her exact location, according to the spokesperson.
Springtown police were able to ping Johnstone’s phone and placed her in the area of Broadway Avenue and Lakeview Drive in Azle.
The Azle Police Department, with help from the Azle Fire Department, Briar VFD, Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office deputies and mounted patrol, Wise County Sheriff’s Office, and TRWD police actively searched the woods east of both North and South Ash Avenue all the way to Eagle Mountain Lake throughout the night Monday.
Even during a driving rainstorm that dumped more than two inches of rain on the area, searchers went house-to-house and combed the woods looking for Johnstone.
Tuesday morning, Reed called on Search One Rescue Team, a non-profit search and rescue operation based in Lewisville, to assist in the search. That effort paid off in a big way.
Shortly after 1 p.m., Search One officer Laura Warren and her canine, Gunnar, located Johnstone – alive, walking and talking, according to Reed.
Reed said Search One initially deployed three search and rescue teams in the effort to locate Johnstone: a trailing team comprised of canine Lucky, his handler Bill Force and flanker Mark Hannah, an “air scent” team comprised of canine Levi, his handler, Pat Thorpe and flanker Brian Flynn, and a second air scent team comprised of Gunnar, his handler Warren, and flanker Larry Troy.
The trailing team was able to pick up Johnstone’s scent from clothing retrieved from her home.
That scent led searchers to an area in the 100 block of South Broadway Avenue.
Then the air scent teams furthered the search, with Gunnar, Warren, and Troy being credited with the find.
After a thorough search of the area, Warren ascended to the highest point in the area, from which she was able to discern an individual standing in the midst of a thick growth of eight-foot-tall reeds at the very edge of Eagle Mountain Lake.
It was Johnstone.
Probably dehydrated but not suffering from any immediate danger, Johnstone was transported to Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Azle by an Azle FD ambulance crew.
“This is the best of all possible outcomes, and we appreciate the help we received from so many agencies,” Reed said.