Family members recovering after stranded on holiday road trip to NC

ANSON COUNTY, N.C. — A New Jersey woman and her 5-year-old great-granddaughter were found alive in Virginia on Wednesday, days after their disappearance during a holiday road trip prompted a multi-state search, authorities said.

The two left New Jersey on Christmas Eve to visit relatives in Anson County, North Carolina but never arrived.

Barbara and La'Myra Briley were found inside their vehicle on private property in Dinwiddie County, south of Richmond, just before 5 p.m. Wednesday, Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said in a brief statement.

Briley apparently turned off of a dirt road, which she followed about 3/10 of a mile before pulling off into the woods.

At one point, she drove over a small tree, attempted to back up and the Rav4 got stuck in a remote area of the property.

The two were there for several days but had enough drinks and snacks to sustain them for the duration of that time.

Briley, 71, was flown by helicopter to VCU Medical Center in Richmond for treatment, according to the statement, which didn't give further details about her condition. La'Myra appeared unharmed but was transported for medical evaluation.

Maj. William Knott of the Dinwiddie County Sheriff's Office said a man walking in a wooded area stumbled across the two in their car. The man had seen news reports, realized who the Brileys were and called 911, Knott said.

"This person probably saved them," he said.

Barbara Briley was "not responsive to questions" when authorities arrived, but La'Myra, who has since been reunited with family, was "in good shape and very talkative," according to Knott. He said the two were alone in the vehicle, which did not appear damaged.

"I have absolutely no clue how they got where they were," said Knott, who declined to say how long the vehicle had been on the property.

A relative of Briley's reached by The Associated Press declined comment, and VCU Medical Center didn't immediately return a message.

The Brileys left New Jersey on Christmas Eve to visit relatives in North Carolina but never arrived. They had last been seen Saturday at a gas station in Ruther Glen, Virginia, about 30 miles north of Richmond.

Family members have said Barbara Briley was a former driver for New Jersey Transit and had made the long trip numerous times. They also said she didn't have any known medical issues.

In a statement, the family thanked everyone who assisted in the search and asked for privacy.

Surveillance video from the gas station shows Barbara Briley walking inside about 5:40 p.m. Saturday. She exits and re-enters before eventually pulling away just after 6 p.m., authorities said.

Gas station clerk Joanna Strange told local media that Briley came inside to say she was lost and that she helped her with her GPS before Briley went on her way.

Lt. Travis Nutter of the Caroline County Sheriff's Office, which released the video, said nothing in the footage indicated any kind of suspicious activity at the gas station.

"That video is the last anybody saw of her, and what happened after that we truly don't know," he said.

State troopers had searched in the Ruther Glen area and then re-centered their efforts along the Interstate 85 corridor from south of Richmond to the North Carolina line, state police spokesman Sgt. Stephan Vick said. They used a helicopter and hunted for signs of guard rail damage or other evidence that a car may have run off the road, he said.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol also assisted in the search. The investigation is being led by Hamilton Township, New Jersey, police, who didn't return messages seeking comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Family desperate for answers

"It definitely was not Christmas for us," Ginger Bittle, Barbara's niece, told Channel 9 over Skype.

Bittle said they've been wracking their brains trying to figure out what happened.

"This is unlike her,” Bittle said. “She's made this drive every year, sometimes two to three times a year."

Even though they don't know where the two are, Briley's family hasn't given up hope.

"I kept looking out the door last night and my twin sister was like, 'Why do you keep looking?' Because I'm waiting for her to pull up in that driveway. It's going to happen. It's going to happen," Bittle said.

The two were traveling in a silver Toyota RAV4 with New Jersey tag C80-ELS.

Barbara is African-American, 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 215 pounds.

LaMyar was last seen wearing gray sweat pants and a gray camo sweat hoodie.

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