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Last-Minute Decisions To Eat At Burger King Leads To Rescue of Woman Found Face Down in Creek Saturday

By Jesse Wood

Sept. 16, 2013. A woman was found facedown with most of her body submerged in the creek behind Burger King on Saturday afternoon at about 2 p.m., and if not for a timely rescue by a few citizens waiting in the drive-through lane at the fast food restaurant in Boone, she likely wouldn’t be alive today.  

Jordan Nelson, who was the first person to notice the woman in dire straits, never eats at Burger King. Plus, he already had plans scheduled for dinner later in the afternoon, but Nelson said an inside voice told him to “stop and grab something to eat.”

“I pulled up waiting in line and just happened to look over the creek and there was a lady laying facedown in the creek and the first thing that came to mind, there is someone dead in the creek,” Nelson said. “So I jumped out of my car and over the wall [and down the embankment].”

Two vehicles behind Nelson were Gerald Townsend, an off-duty patrolman with the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, and his family, who decided at the last minute to dine at Burger King.

Townsend said he saw Nelson jump out of his car but thought nothing of it.

“I thought maybe his money flew out the window. Then the next person who ordered jumped out of their vehicle, so I got out and when I got out I looked over [towards the river] and saw what it was,” Townsend said.

By then Nelson was wading the stream towards where most of the woman’s body was submerged with her face on a rock and out of the water.  

Nelson said she was barely moving, barely breathing.

“She was still relatively warm, so I knew it was fairly recent from how long she’d been in there. I felt for a pulse and just barely felt a pulse,” Nelson said, adding that two other people – including Townsend – arrived to help pull her out of the creek and onto the bank, where she regained consciousness.

Nelson said she was in shock, shaking “really bad” and could only give her first name. Townsend added that she was “froze to death” and warm clothes were given to her.

Townsend noted that she had only been there for at least less than an hour because a Burger King employee who took out the trash an hour earlier hadn’t noticed anyone down in the creek.

The victim, who Nelson said looked to be in her late 50s, told her rescuers that she had been walking along the Greenway Trail and fell. Nelson added that it was “strange” because the trail is about four feet from the creek and brush separates the two.

“She would have had to have fallen through the woods and she wasn’t laying on the bank. She was a good ways into the creek and half of her body was under water,” Nelson said.

Within minutes of Nelson noticing the body in the creek, the Boone Fire Department and Watauga Medics arrived on the scene. On Monday morning, Craig Sullivan, director of Watauga Medics, said she was in stable condition and had been transported to the Watauga Medical Center.

Sullivan added that she was a local but wouldn’t release her name or other details.

Nelson, two days later, said, “It still feels like a dream.”

“Just because not too many people see a body in the creek first down and one find them still alive and two are able to get them out and help them to a point where they are still able to make it,” Nelson said. “I am glad I stopped because 15 or 30 minutes longer. I am sure she wouldn’t have made it.”

Just like Nelson, Townsend said that it was a twist of fate that a few citizens randomly decided at the last minute to order food at Burger King’s drive through. (Townsend spoke to another person at the scene named Tina who said she had a headache and decided to stop and get a drink at Burger King.)

“That’s what my wife said,” Townsend said. “‘God brought all of us together to help her out.”