Woman, great-granddaughter stranded on holiday road trip now recovering

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — It was supposed to be a nine-hour drive from New Jersey to North Carolina, one that Barbara Briley had made many times before. But something went awry during the Christmas road trip, and the 71-year-old and her young great-granddaughter spent days stranded in wooded area of rural Virginia before a passer-by spotted them and called for help.

Barbara and 5-year-old La'Myra Briley were recovering Thursday after the ordeal, authorities and relatives said. The two were found a day earlier in Dinwiddie County, south of Richmond, after days of searching.

They were near their vehicle, which was stuck on private property about a mile from a paved road, Virginia State Police said.

Barbara Briley was unconscious and was flown to VCU Medical Center in Richmond where she was in listed in serious condition Wednesday, according to police. La'Myra was reported to be alert and unhurt, and police said she received a medical evaluation before being reunited with a family member.

On Thursday, Ginger Bittle, a niece of Barbara Briley, said the two were doing fine. She said it was her understanding that they both remained at the hospital.

Hospital spokesman Brian McNeill said he didn't have any information to provide.

The Brileys left from Mays Landing, New Jersey, on Christmas Eve headed for Morven, North Carolina, but they never arrived. They were reported missing, and their disappearance sparked a search across a wide swath of Virginia. Before Wednesday, they had last been seen at a gas station about 30 miles north of Richmond, where a store clerk said Barbara Briley asked for directions and help with her GPS before she continued on her way.

It's not clear how the two ended up so far from a main highway. No foul play is suspected in the disappearance, according to police.

Evidence points to Briley having pulled off a dirt road into the woods and driving over a small tree, getting stuck when she tried to back up, police said. It appeared the Brileys had been there for "several days" but they had snacks and drinks to get by.

Authorities said the property owner spotted the car from a distance and went to check on it. Maj. William Knott of the Dinwiddie County Sheriff's Office said the man had seen news reports about the missing travelers, realized who the Brileys were and called 911.

"This person probably saved them," Knott said.

The investigation is being led by Hamilton Township, New Jersey, police, who haven't returned messages seeking comment.

Family members have said Barbara Briley was a former driver for New Jersey Transit who didn't have any known medical issues. She made the trip from New Jersey at least once a year, Bittle said.

In a statement, the family thanked everyone who assisted in the search and asked for privacy. They will issue another statement later once they have more information about what happened, Bittle said.

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