TAMPA (FOX 13) - A 71-year-old Tampa woman who had been missing four several hours was recovering in the hospital Thursday after Hillsborough deputies tracked her down using heat-sensing technology attached to a helicopter.
After Lillian Morales disappeared Tuesday, her family began to worry about her safety.
"This is the actual first time that she's gone missing," said Manuel Delballe, Morales' son. "Definitely worried, definitely scared, but I had hope in Gd and hopefully we'd find her."
Video recorded from a Hillsborough County Sheriff's chopper recorded the search, as the pilots, using heat-sensing technology, spotted someone near a canal.
They directed deputies on the ground and in pitch black over to what they were seeing.
"We're not sure what this is, what we're looking at, that's why we're going to have to check it out. It appears to be something moving," the pilots can be heard saying in the recording.
It turned out to be Morales, who was cold, confused and clutching onto the bank of a canal.
According to Stuart O'Shannon, the sheriff's office head pilot, the pilots on duty during this incident were forced to land for a couple hours earlier in the evening to let a storm pass through the area.
They could have called it a night but decided to pick up the search again.
"They were so diligent in coming back here and paying attention to what was going on, not only on the radio but the weather, looking for that one opportunity to get out there and help out," O'Shannon told FOX 13. "Who knows what could have happened. Like I said, I honestly feel that these men saved her life. They did a tremendous job."
"I was ecstatic that they had found her alive and well," Delballe said. "I thought for a moment my mom was gone and when they actually said, 'we found her,' was the most happiest moment of my life."
O'Shannon said the pilots have a lot of experience conducting searches like this; they conduct three or four of them each week.