Highway patrol continues search for woman washed away Thursday

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Rescuers will enter a fourth day of their search for a Stoddard County woman who was washed away in a ditch Thursday morning.

Shirley Stratton, 39, of Bernie was driving west on Route U about 7:30 a.m. Thursday when her car hydroplaned into a ditch, said trooper Richard Owens with the Missouri State Highway Patrol. The accident occurred a half mile west of Powe, Mo., he said.

Her car, a 1999 Ford Taurus, drifted 400 feet and was stopped by a culvert. Owens said two men stopped to help. One man got into the water but Stratton was pulled under by the current.

Owens said rescuers believed she was still in the car until it was pulled out of the water at about 10 a.m.

The Missouri State Water Patrol is working in conjunction with the Missouri Highway Patrol, the Stoddard County Sheriff's Department and members of the Bernie volunteer fire department on the search, he said. Owens said rescue efforts are shifting further upstream to where the ditch empties into the St. Francis River.

Heavy rainfall prompted many road closures in Southeast Missouri by Thursday afternoon, including Route U in Stoddard County. Part of Route T in Stoddard County was also closed. There were other road closings in Scott and Bollinger counties.

According to the National Weather Service, Cape Girardeau collected 3.51 inches of rain during the Christmas Eve storm. Winds gusts reached 52 mph overnight.

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