By Brad Mosher
The saga of Clara Mae Braun started Sept. 16 when her relatives could not find her or her 2012 Chrysler 300 in South Dakota.
Days later she was found in a rural section of Hettinger County by local residents who helped get her taken to the West River Hospital in Hettinger by EMS responders.
In between, Facebook and North Dakota’s Silver Alert program played a major role in finding Braun stuck and out of gas off a section road in southeast Hettinger County, close to the Adams County line.
It was a happy ending for Jackie Christman, Braun’s granddaughter, and the rest of her family. It was a ending which also played out on Facebook.
It started Monday with Christman posting on Facebook that her grandmother was missing.
Tuesday evening, the Hettinger resident reported on Facebook that a trucker had claimed to have seen Braun’s vehicle south of the city of Lemmon on Highway 73 near Shadehill.
Christman added a post Wednesday morning that her grandmother had been seen near Mott. “Grandma stopped and asked for direction at a farmstead Monday mid morning southeast of Mott, ND. That is the last time anyone has seen her that we know of,” Christman posted on Facebook.
That report helped to focus the search on the area near the Hettinger County seat.
Later Wednesday, Christman added that “Grandma is still missing, planes and ground crew search the Mott area since they knew she had stopped there. All other tips haven’t been Grandma, but we appreciate people reporting! Thank you to everyone for the thinking of Grandma and saying a prayer, she believes in the power of prayer. We appreciate all the support.”
That patience would pay off the next morning when some Hettinger County residents decided to do their own search nearby.
An early post Thursday morning still was hopeful. “Grandma is still missing and the only confirmed sighting was SW of Mott. My dad and husband are going back there today, it was searched well by planes and ground crew yesterday but doesn’t hurt to look again,” she posted at 9:08 a.m. Thursday.
Minutes later (9:30 a.m.), she got the news for which she had been waiting and hoping. “GRANDMA has Been FOUND. She is alive. All I know is she was found in Mott Area and an ambulance is on the way to get her. Thank you again for all prayers, support and help!!”
About 90 minutes later, Christman posted “Grandma was found by Brent (Roth), Carrie Roth and Bennie Kruger this morning. She was weak and dehydrated but knew her name and address, she also told them the roads were terrible and to have Jason blade them?, she is in the Hettinger hospital. My dad has been there and she knows him and the other visitors. Her car was stuck and out of gas on a section line a few miles south of the last place she was seen. The outcome is amazing and we appreciate everyone!!”
Carrie Roth was one of the thousands of people following Christman’s Facebook posts.
According to Christman, early Thursday morning he texted a map to Carrie Roth showing where Braun had last been reported to be seen. Carrie Roth showed the map to her husband Brent.
He said he knew the area and the poor conditions of the roads. He joined with friend Bennie Kruger to check the area out.
They found her vehicle two miles down a road after seeing car tracks on a section line. She was lying on the ground next to her vehicle. The searchers called 9-1-1.
A big factor in the search was when the North Dakota Silver Alert was activated.
The North Dakota system was set up in 2017 to help locate missing people who were elderly of had health problems.
Christman has also said that the Silver Alert was probably crucial to finding her grandmother. It also has impressed the Harding County Sheriff who has publicly stated that it was more effective than south Dakota’s Endangered Persons Advisory. South Dakota does not have a Silver Alert system.
Getting message out
In addition to a Silver Alert, Hettinger County’s Emergency Manager, Tracy Kruger, sent an alert for Hettinger County residents on landline telephones.
“This layer of alerting has been an option for some time, and we are fortunate to not have to use it very often. This message showed up on caller id as (701) 000-0000. Some landlines are setup on answering machines or voicemail, so some citizens got the message. Some telephone lines ignored the phone call/message and some citizens answered their telephones and received the message,” Kruger explained in a Facebook post.
There may be changes, she added. “Soon, I will be launching a voluntary citizen sign-up campaign which will be another way to receive local emergency notifications, if you so choose.”
The search wasn’t just online via Facebook or using the Silver Alert. The South Dakota Civil Air Patrol conducted an aerial search of Hettinger and Adams counties in North Dakota.
The Harding County Sheriff, Wyatt Sabo, thanks the local agencies for helping out in the search for Braun just the night before she was located.
“I would like to thank the Perkins County Sheriff’s Office, Hettinger County, Adams County, Slope County Sheriffs offices, the ND State Highway Patrol and all others on the ground in Perkins County. I don’t know all (the) agency’s. The civil air patrol brought two planes up to fly a large area today along with several other planes. The last confirmed place Clara was seen was about 8 miles south of Mott ND on Monday around 10 a.m. but that does not mean she can’t be anywhere so please keep an eye out for her. Thanks again for all the help today. Have a good night,” he posted.
She was found just over 12 hours later.
Sabo had started the initial search Sept. 16 when he issued a Endangered Missing Advisory in South Dakota.
‘Its a miracle’
As far as Kruger is considered, finding Braun after three full days missing still alive and in relatively good health was miraculous.
“I don’t know why, but it goes back to what prompted the farmers to go out to an area they had already been to. That is unexplained. He (Roth) saying he just had a feeling… That is a miracle. It truly is a miracle. It ended very well in that she was found and alright…. in a remote area and stuck in a slough,” the emergency manager added.
Time to plan
The county emergency also suggested that family should take some time to make plans on how to survive extreme situations.
“There are lots of common sense things that we can think about that people should probably do. They can’t plan for everything…. but…,” she added.