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Missing mother, daughter lost in Virginia mountains credit survival to faith, family and friends

Mary Elizabeth: 'I learned I'm a lot more capable than I thought I was'
Posted at 4:43 PM, Jul 14, 2023

PRINCE GEORGE COUNTY, Va. -- After a harrowing four-day ordeal, a mother and daughter from Prince George County have been found safe and are now heading home. Martha and Mary Elizabeth Bates, who got lost during a drive to West Virginia, credit their survival to faith, family and friends.

The 43-year-old and 15-year-old set off on the trip Sunday, July 9, with a plan to get Mary Elizabeth to summer camp.

Martha and Mary Bates
Martha and Mary Bates

When they reached Monterey, Virginia, located in Highland County, their cellphone GPS app malfunctioned. According to William Chrimes of the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the absence of a strong cellphone service in the area compounded the situation.

Stranded without a clear signal and their car stuck, Martha and Mary Elizabeth found themselves on a single-lane gravel road within the George Washington National Forest for four days.

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"We're just blown away by how many people had come out to look for us and all the people there greeting us and the support we got,” said Martha Bates.

Martha, determined to remain strong for her daughter, admitted that the ordeal was challenging but says she’s very proud of Mary Elizabeth’s resilience. "She was also strong for me, and I really think we helped each other through it."

"I learned I'm a lot more capable than I thought I was," said Mary Elizabeth, a rising sophomore at Prince George County High School.

The mother-daughter duo primarily stayed near their car, which served as their only shelter during the ordeal. Although they ventured on walks at times, their purpose was to scout the area ahead in both directions, according to Mary Elizabeth.

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William Chrimes, who ultimately located the pair on Thursday, applauded Martha and Mary Elizabeth for making smart decisions while stranded. He said sticking together when they left the car was the right choice to make under the circumstances.

Martha's husband, Michael Bates, says family members from across the country and employees from his workplace in Richmond participated in the search. The Bates family plans to pay that kindness forward in the future by assisting in search and rescue missions, recognizing the importance of trained volunteers.

Michael, Martha and Mary Elizabeth Bates
Michael, Martha and Mary Elizabeth Bates

Martha Bates says she plans to have more emergency supplies in her car on the next trip. "I'll put a blanket in there and several bottles of water.”

The Bates family is spending the weekend together, with Michael Bates declaring, "I am not letting anybody out of my sight for the next 20 years."

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

Local News

Mother and daughter disappear on the way to summer camp

Wayne Covil
3:57 PM, Jul 12, 2023

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