Friday, May 11, 2012

For want of a cell phone signal, an elderly couple dies

In this age of mobile phones, no one ever expects to be unable to get a signal, but when it happens, it often happens at the worst time. In the case of an elderly Manhattan couple, it meant their deaths.

Arthur Morris, 88, and his wife Madeleine, 89, died just 60 feet from their Catskills vacation home, after a fender bender left them stuck in a ditch with their car leaning on the driver's side. They were unable to raise anyone after trying nine times.

The slow-speed crash did little damage to the car or the Morrises. It occurred as Arthur was negotiating a hairpin turn at the end of their driveway and miscalculated, causing the car to slide off the road and into a ditch.

The Morrises then tried to make five calls in quick succession. None of them connected. While no one will ever know for sure, it's believed that at that time, Arthur tried to exit the vahicle, but due to the car’s angle, as he opened the door, he fell. His body was wedged into an eight-inch space between the bottom of the door and the ground.

Arthur Morris apparently asphyxiated there.

Madeleine Morris then picked up the cell phone again and tried four more calls to 911 and a neighbor. There was still no connection.

Madeleine crawled out of the car, leaving the cell phone behind, and went off on foot. She walked a quarter-mile to a neighbor's house, but there was no one there, as it was a vacation house and the family had left the day before.

Madeleine Morris covered herself with a blue plastic tarp from a nearby woodpile and spent the nigth on the patio, with temperatures dipping into the low 50s. As of the morning, she was dead of hypothermia.

Her son, Ron Fields, 66, said that she could have survived if she had broken into the house. “She could have smashed a window. There were logs there. But I don’t think that ever would have occurred to her.”

No jokes here about AT&T, the iPhone, and dropped calls. It is, however, ironic that Jeantet Fields said he had given his grandparents, the Morrises, a cell phone on the AT&T network because he felt that would give them the best chance at receiving a signal in that area, Andes, which is a small mountain hamlet with no towers of its own.

One tower may go up in nearby Margaretville within a year. Meanwhile, a site has been identified in Andes, but it will probably take two years to get service there.

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