After 8 nights stuck in woods, woman died hours before help arrived

The car was found high-centered on an overgrown road. (Douglas County Sheriff's Office photo)

RIDDLE, Ore. - A 70-year-old woman missing along with 2 friends for a week died just hours before an elk hunter found them stranded on a remote forest road Saturday, the Douglas County Sheriff's Office said.

Sharon Buchanan likely died Friday night or Saturday morning, investigators said.

She was dead when her companions - Melvin Hawkins, 86, and Alice Hawkins, 80 - woke up Saturday in the PT Cruiser the three were in when that got stuck on a remote forest road, Sgt. Brad O'Dell with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office said.

A hunter located them later that morning.

"At this point all indications are that it was of natural causes and there's nothing suspicious," O'Dell said. The medical examiner will determine Buchanan's cause of death.

Buchanan joined the Hawkins on a drive September 1.

They were reported missing after failing to return home.

The hunter found them September 9. The three had spent 8 nights in the woods after the car became high-centered on an overgrown road off Upper Cow Creek Road in the Azalea, Ore., area.

The sheriff's office said the group did not tell anyone where they were traveling, which made the search difficult.

Investigators were able to track down their last known credit card purchase to the Azalea General Store.

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