An elderly woman froze to death after she fell trying to help her husband whose motorized wheelchair tipped over outside their Georgia home, authorities said.
Maria Riffe, 86, is believed to have died of hypothermia as her husband laid about 20 yards from her in their Eatonton yard, both unable to help each other.
Her husband, 74-year-old Roy Riffe, was in his scooter making his way back to their home from a building on their property when his chair tipped off the concrete walkway and fell over about 5:30 p.m. last Wednesday, Putnam County Sheriff Howard Silas told INSIDE EDITION.
Roy Riffe called out for help and his wife, who relies on a walker, came out but fell off the walkway about 20 yards from her husband, he said.
There they remained until 10:30 a.m. Thursday, when a caretaker discovered Maria Riffe dead and her husband in very bad shape, Silas said.
While Maria Riffe was only wearing a house dress, Roy Riffe was wearing fleece pants and a jacket, which may have saved him, officials said.
Roy Riffe was rushed to a local hospital and has since made a full recovery, Silas said.
“It’s just a very tragic situation,” Silas told IE. “Unfortunately this happened where a couple houses on either side, no one lives in those houses. They live off of Lake Sinclair… the lake has a lot of weekend (homes).”
The secluded setting made it possible that no one could hear if the Riffes yelled for help.
“It’s just a tragic accident,” Silas continued. “What can you do to prevent this? I guess carry your cellphone with you everywhere, but I’ll go out in the backyard and don’t carry it with me. It’s your backyard.”
Neighbor Crystal Pittman, who lives up the road from the couple, was devastated by the news.
"It makes me really sad that Miss Maria died that way, and that nobody was able to find her,” Pittman told WGXA-TV.
The couple has two daughters, Silas said.