Gayle Stewart, a 64-year-old Nevada woman, was rescued Monday by emergency personnel when she was found dangling from a tree off the side of a cliff. 

According to local reports, Stewart’s son had reported her missing earlier that day when she left for home and never returned. She was hoisted to safety by fire officials late that night, after having clung for her life while dangling hundreds of feet for an estimated 12 hours. 

“It was actually kind of a miracle story,” said Reno Fire Department battalion chief Seth Williams

Safe at last, Stewart warmed up in the ambulance on the way to the hospital where she was treated for exposure symptoms, and is expected to make a full recovery, media reports added. 

The rescue team lifted 64-year-old Gayle Stewart to safety after she spent a full day clinging to a tree off the edge of a 400-foot cliff.
The rescue team lifted 64-year-old Gayle Stewart to safety after she spent a full day clinging to a tree off the edge of a 400-foot cliff. Photo credit: Reno Fire

Missing Woman Found Dangling From Cliff

According to local station KOLO-TV 8, at around 8 a.m. on Monday, Stewart left her home in Caughlin Ranch, a quiet residential suburb southwest of Reno’s city center. 

When two hours passed and she hadn’t returned, the 64-year-old’s son and friends reported her missing and organized a search party to comb the area. For hours, Stewart’s loved ones looked high and low for any sign of her whereabouts. 

It wasn’t until about 9 p.m, more than 12 hours after she left her house, that a friend of her son finally came across her. Stewart was dangling from a tree on the edge of a steep drop off, some 300 or 400 feet above the earth. 

Gayle Stewart was missing for almost 10 hours before her son's friend found her dangling from a cliff.
Gayle Stewart was missing for almost 10 hours before her son’s friend found her dangling from a cliff. Photo credit: Reno Police

“The son called up some friends to start searching for her,” explained battalion chief Williams, “and one of the boys just decided to head off this cliff thinking maybe she fell down there and found her clinging to a tree.” 

The fireman said Stewart was visibly exhausted and mostly unable to call for attention by the time she was finally located. 

“[The son’s friend] said the last thing she said was ‘help,’ and then she didn’t talk anymore,” Williams told reporters

First Responders Rescue Gayle Stewart 

Her son’s friend quickly phoned first responders, who were on the scene by about 9:15 p.m., officials said. 

The sun had already set as the crew of 28 fire and medical personnel worked diligently to rescue Stewart. Reno Fire Department posted photos and an update to its official Twitter page early Tuesday morning, recounting their efforts. 

First, the rescue team medically “stabilized” Stewart, who was said to be “injured” by the time help arrived. The extent and nature of those injuries were not made clear. 

Then, after surveying the site and coming up with a game plan, the team built a custom “rescue system” — a sort of gurney apparatus lowered and hoisted on ropes, as seen in the photos. From there, the crew was able to remove Stewart from the face of the cliff and pull her up to safety. 

“[We] transported her back to pavement in about a half-hour from contact,” the department wrote. “Strong work!”

Officials said Gayle Stewart suffered minor injuries while she dangled off the cliff, but that she'll make a full recovery.
Officials said Gayle Stewart suffered minor injuries while she dangled off the cliff, but that she’ll make a full recovery. Photo credit: Reno Fire

After spending hours exposed to the elements and dangling hundreds of feet off the ground, Stewart was taken to a hospital for treatment of minor injuries. And though she’s expected to make a full recovery, battalion chief Williams said the harrowing episode could have had a tragic ending. 

“That’s what I told the young man that found her, I said that’s truly a lifesaver,” the fireman said.

“With the rain and the snow coming tonight she’s already been exposed for the better part of 12 hours,” he added. “It could have been a very different outcome had he not found her when he did.”