Update: Great-grandmother, 86, still missing and presumed dead after flooding

Posted at: 06/29/2013 11:47 PM
By: Steve Flamisch

FORT PLAIN -- An 86 year-old great-grandmother was still missing and presumed dead in the wake of Friday's flooding in the village, authorities said Saturday.

Ethel Healey was last seen in her mobile home minutes before it was swept away by the raging water of the Otsquago Creek, authorities said. Searchers have not found her trailer.

"There's just no words to express how we all feel," Healey's daughter, Mary Puznowski, told NewsChannel 13." Our mom was a wonderful, vibrant, active lady."

Healey is a retired Beech Nut factory worker who enjoys going to garage sales and spending time with her large family, Puznowski said. Healey has seven children and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Police officers knocked on Healey's door minutes before the flood but she told them she did not want to evacuate, Montgomery County Undersheriff Jeff Smith said.

"(She) and her neighbors wanted to stay in their houses because they felt it was a typical high water incident," Smith said, "but this one was anything but typical."

Neighbors told police they saw floodwaters carry Healey's trailer off its foundation shortly after the officers left, Smith said. The neighbors said they believe she was still inside.

It is believed Healey's trailer ended up in the Mohawk River, Fort Plain Police Chief Robert Thomas III said.

"We're going to continue to search for Mrs. Healey," Thomas said. "We will continue our efforts in our area, and as the days progress, we're going to continue to widen that... We would request assistance down river, asking for other agencies to help us out."

Late Saturday, searchers checked the banks of the Mohawk River in the nearby Village of Nelliston. They came up empty.

Puznowski, choking back tears, said her mother turns 87 on July 7. The family was planning to celebrate with a party. Now, she said, they are thinking about a funeral.

"We really hope that we find her, that her body's recovered, so we can lay her to proper rest," Puznowski said.