'God came and showed me where to go' - Woman's incredible survival after car crash

By Lynley Bilby, Matthew Theunissen, Solbin Kang

Tai Luxford had been missing since 11am on Thursday morning. Photo / Supplied
Tai Luxford had been missing since 11am on Thursday morning. Photo / Supplied

An elderly dementia sufferer who crashed her car and was missing for four days in remote rural New Zealand told her family God saved her.

As Tai Luxford recovers from a remarkable ordeal in the Rangitikei district, her children have revealed the first account of her survival.

Daughter Cally Luxford said her 73-year-old mother told family from her hospital bed she could remember leaving her vehicle after it crashed into brush.

"She said she got out of the car, climbed up a bank, got on to the top of the cliff and had a little sleep," Ms Luxford said.

But when she woke up she told family she was worried she wouldn't be able to find the car again.

"Then God came and showed her where to go," Ms Luxford said. "He said, 'Come with me, I'll take you to the car', and they were walking around and she got back in it."

She also recalled waiting for family to show up wondering where they were. "She had been looking around for us," Ms Luxford said.

The family now think their mother, who suffers from dementia, may have spent the past four days at the crash site.

They also believe she would not have lived beyond today had she not been found.

She said the area had been canvassed in a private family search but believe the crash site was well hidden from the road.

Ms Luxford said the family were indebted to the passing farmer who spotted the wreck on the remote Okirae Rd in Fordell, near Whanganui.

She said all the farmer saw was a glint in the brush which he stopped to investigate.

"Man, he's a hero. We really want to thank him for bothering to do something," she said.

Their injured mother was now resting in Whanganui Hospital. She was severely dehydrated, bruised and sunburnt.

In the past few hours she had started eating and the family were hopeful she would make a swift recovery.

CCTV footage showed Tai Luxford before her crash and disappearance.
CCTV footage showed Tai Luxford before her crash and disappearance.

The family were overwhelmed at the support New Zealanders had shown to the family.

"She's dehydrated, bruised, sunburned, hungry but she just looks amazing. She's smiling," said her niece Maryanne Ferris.

"Everyone has been beaming from ear to ear since we got here. We're just ecstatic."

She added: "Today was better than winning Lotto ... we have her back. She was bright and bubbly with a radiant smile on her face, very pleased to see us all, fortunately she still remembers who most of us all are.

"What an amazing night it has been reunited with her, having her back with us again is truly a blessing.

Ms Ferris said due to her aunt's dementia she was unlikely to remember the traumatic experience, though the family were prepared for a bit of a scolding for the ensuing publicity.

The family thanked everyone who had followed the journey to find their relative.

"Words can't do justice to how grateful we are for the love and support you have all shown us from our friends and family but especially the help we have received from complete strangers. You are all amazing."

Tai Luxford had played tennis and had a hair appointment on the day she went missing.

She was seen leaving the Palmerston North suburb of Awapuni about 11am on Thursday.

She drove to Feilding and knocked on the door of Lynnaire Hickmott's mother's home about midday.

"She told me she was lost and that she was playing tennis," Ms Hickmott said. "She wanted to go back home to Palmerston North."

Ms Hickmott said Ms Luxford "didn't have a clue of the landmarks" when she tried to give her directions.

Concerned about the woman, Ms Hickmott got into her van and drove in front of her, directing her towards Palmerston North.

She pulled over just outside Feilding to give Ms Luxford her contact details but Ms Luxford drove off in the direction of Bulls.

Police said that at 12.30pm that day she used her Eftpos card to buy fuel at BP in Bulls, police said.

CCTV footage captured her at the service station.

There were no further sightings or bank transactions since then.

"I was really worried. She just seemed really confused," Ms Hickmott said.

"I went back to mum's and told her I had a feeling she had Alzheimer's."

The following day, Ms Hickmott saw Ms Luxford was reported missing via a police Facebook page.

"Oh my gosh, that's the same lady. I felt absolutely sick," she said. "I just wish I had kept her with me."

Tai Luxford's son Ray Luxford told the Herald his mother took Ms Hickmott's pulling over "as goodbye and waved back to her".

"She had shocking disorientation," he said.

Because she suffers from dementia, Mr Luxford said she had only a couple of regular driving routes and otherwise wasn't allowed to use the car. "She's quite forgetful but she is quite a reasonable driver," he said.

TIMELINE

11am Thursday: Tai Luxford, 73, is seen leaving the Palmerston North suburb of Awapuni in her Subaru Hatchback
About midday: Drove to Fielding and knocked on the door of a woman's house to ask directions. Ms Luxford followed the woman in her car back toward Palmerston North but ended up driving off in the direction of Bulls.
12.30pm: Ms Luxford used her Eftpos card to buy fuel at BP in Bulls and was not seen for another three days
5.30pm Sunday: Farmer passing in his ute finds her on Okirae Rd in Fordell, east of Whanganui and about 86km from Awapuni

- NZ Herald

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