Officers Who Found Missing 73-Year Old Woman Share Story of Her Rescue

“These are the kind of situations that make the job worthwhile,” one officer said

A San Diego-area woman, missing for more than 24 hours, was found stuck in a canyon nearby her home by two San Diego Police (SDPD) officers. 

The officers told NBC 7 Thursday they were relieved to find the 73-year-old woman uninjured after their long trek into the canyon.

Jan Mattei who lives with dementia was reported went missing from her home on Caminito Estrellado around 10 a.m. Wednesday. She apparently walked away while her caregiver was vacuuming.

SDPD launched a search for her soon after she was reported missing, a search which lasted more than 24 hours.

Mattei was found Thursday around 11 a.m. in a canyon off Easton Court, which is about a mile away from her home. 

SDPD officers Chris Curran and Chris Johnson trekked into the canyon after a San Diego Fire-Rescue Department (SDFD) helicopter located Mattei.

Both officers told NBC 7 San Diego they did not feel optimistic when they were told Mattei had been found in a canyon. They said they were expecting the worst.

There were no trails to get into the canyon, which made the rescue that much more difficult. A team from the helicopter guided the officers through the thick, dry brush as they made their way down to Mattei.

"Even from the top of the canyon, we couldn't see the bottom of it at all," Johnson said. "They told us, 'she's down there in the palm trees somewhere. Just walk in and we'll guide you in.'"

He said they were knocking down trees and weeds -- some taller than they were.

When the officers finally found Mattei, they say she was a little confused and dirty, but otherwise appeared to be okay.

“It’s situations like this that kind of get me through this job, because it doesn’t always end well. A lot of times, they end poorly. But when something like this happens and you can find somebody like this, it carries you,” Curran said.

The officers say despite being in the canyon overnight, without food or water, Mattei appeared to be doing okay. She was lifted out of the canyon and taken to a local hospital for an evaluation. 

Both officers say they were happy to be able to return Mattei to her family safely.

“These are the kind of situations that make the job worthwhile,” Curran said.

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