A 77-year-old Kingfisher County grandmother who had been missing more than a week was found dead inside her vehicle early Saturday by a volunteer search party, her family said.
Investigators with the Oklahoma County sheriff's department said Betty Simon's vehicle was found upside down in a shallow creek in northwest Oklahoma County. It was pulled out of the creek about 3 p.m.
“I still break down and cry, but gosh, it's so good to find her and have closure,” said Angie Habben, Simon's eldest granddaughter. “We're all relieved.”
Simon had been missing since June 20 after she left a rehabilitation center in northwest Oklahoma City where her husband is staying since he had open heart surgery.
Family members said their concerns about Simon's disappearance were magnified because she suffered from heart disease and required medication.
Simon's vehicle, a silver Buick LeSabre, was discovered about 10:30 a.m., just a couple hours after about 100 volunteer searchers fanned out to look along the rural routes between Oklahoma City and Kingfisher.
Pam Smith, a family friend, said she spotted the undercarriage of a silver sedan when she peered over the railing of a creek crossing on N Council Road, just south of NW 178 Street.
The car was in about two feet of water and was partially obscured by the bridge, Smith said. It could not been seen from the road.
“It was that far under the bridge, completely camouflaged by debris,” Smith said.
Investigators think the vehicle left the roadway as far as 100 feet south of the bridge, and went through the ditch on the west side of the roadway and into the creek.
A “strange set of circumstances” — specifically, embankments that crisscross both sides of the path taken to the water — caused the vehicle to flip onto its top, Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel said. Foul play is not suspected to have played a role in the accident or death, he said.
“She may have become disoriented — it's really hard to know at this time,” he said. “We're going to be able to determine a lot more as soon as the vehicle is up.”
Whetsel said the body was taken to the state medical examiner's office.
But for Habben, just finding her grandmother was enough.
From billboards to Facebook, she said family and supporters were indefatigable in their hunt for the woman they described as a “tough lady” who held everyone together.
“She wasn't feeling well that day, she was too tired to go into town to get cash — I guess it all makes sense now,” Habben said. “But she would have been very pleased at how close our family has come this week, and we've all been touched by people's warmth and kindness.”
Simon's daughter, Sheila Nakvinda, said the family has not yet made funeral arrangements for Simon.
“Right now, us kids are packing up and getting ready to go home. We are going to spend the holiday with our kids and our grandkids; we'll meet up with our dad to make plans on what we should do next, and get the house ready for Leo (Simon's husband) to get home,” Nakvinda said.
Contributing: Staff Writer LeighAnne Manwarren