Missing Tampa woman found in Punta Gorda

Missing Tampa woman found in Punta Gorda

By Gabrielle Sarann. CREATED May 21, 2012

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. - The search ended Sunday the way everyone had hoped. Twenty-seven-year-old Ellen Quinlan was discovered in heavy brush with no life-threatening injuries. But deputies say she appeared dehydrated and disoriented. Many tonight are thankful she's alive.

For Edward Kula, watching investigators rescue Quinlan, was remarkable.

"You can just see how thick it is in there," said Kula, referring to the heavy brush, where Quinlan was found.

Kula watched investigators pull her from  dense vegetation, after spending two days in the heat and humidity without food and water.

"She had too many bites on her, just like little bumps bites on her head and little cuts on her feet," explained Kula.

Quinlan disappeared after 1 p.m. on Friday, when she abandoned her Toyota Camry near the mobile home park. Just two hours later, neighbors like Jim Smith, saw her emerge from the canal.

"I said 'Can we help you?'," said Smith. "But she says 'Well, I'm just trying to get my bearings a little' and i says, 'Where are you going? She says I'm just going straight that way.'"

It was Sunday night, when investigators spotted Quinlan from a helicopter standing next to a tree. The brush was so thick, a deputy ran up to neighbor Brian Scottnichols for help.

"He said, do you have a machete?," explained Scottnichols.  "And i said yes sir I've got one right here. And i had one laying here, i give it to him and away he went."

She was found alive around 9:30 p.m. on Sunday, near the Lazy Lagoon Mobile Home Park in Punta Gorda.

Investigators explained how they worked around-the-clock to find Quinlan. They used air and ground forces, dive teams and infrared technology.

"Without that equipment, and having the aircraft as well as the flare, the chance of finding her would have been significantly diminished," said Col. David Bonsall, with the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office.

Quinlan is being treated at Charlotte Regional Medical Center and is expected to be released. As for what led her to go missing, authorities say she had been off her medication but would not comment further.