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Oregon woman trapped in crater survives week of freezing weather

By Teresa Carson

PORTLAND (Reuters) - A distraught woman who became stranded in a large crater in rural Oregon survived for a week despite snow, ice and freezing temperatures before she was rescued, police said on Friday.

Sharon Bates, 52, was not dressed for the outdoors and had no food when she left her home in Cottage Grove on February 7, distressed and seeking solitude, Cottage Grove Police Corporal Conrad Gagner said.

She apparently climbed into a 30-foot-wide, 12-foot-deep crater near the town's historic McFarland Cemetery, then couldn't get back out, Gagner said.

Bates's sister reported her missing on Sunday, prompting a search by police in and around Cottage Grove, a picturesque small town about 130 miles south of Portland.

She was ultimately found on Thursday by police who searched the crater after family members told them that Bates liked the area around the cemetery.

"She was in surprisingly good condition, considering what she endured," Gagner said.

In the first few days after Bates became stuck in the pit, a fierce snowstorm hit western Oregon, followed by freezing rain, and temperatures dipped into the low 30s at night.

Conditions improved only slightly as the week wore on, with rain and nighttime lows in the mid-30s.

Bates survived by catching small amounts of snow and rain water in a plastic bag she found in the pit, he said. The crater was somewhat protected by evergreen trees.

The fire department extracted her from the crater and took her to PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in nearby Springfield where she was listed in fair condition.

Ganger said Bates was communicative and thanked officers for finding her.

(Reporting by Teresa Carson; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Prudence Crowther)

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