The story was reported in the New York Daily News on May 11 and spread like wildfire. ABC News covered it (portions of an interview with Marty Donnelly can be heard on an internet video) as did The Daily Mail in the UK.
Arthur, 88 and Madeleine Morris, 89, a Manhattan couple, were driving slowly from their vacation house in Andes’ Woodland Hills, when their Ford Fusion slid, then rolled 15 feet down an embankment. Arthur, a Julliard-educated music teacher, tried to climb out of the car, but fell because of the steep angle; his body became wedged under the car door and he was asphyxiated.
His wife tried 9 times to reach 911 or a neighbor on her cell phone. She had had sporadic service on this hilltop area and counted on using their AT&T network phone for emergencies, but when one occurred it was no use since, as we know, Andes, like many of our rural towns, has no cell service.
Madeleine trekked ¼ mile to a neighbor’s house, but there was no one home. Turkey hunters discovered her husband the next morning. After a search a couple of hours later she was found dead on the front porch covered with a tarp from the woodpile. Dropping temperatures in a torrential thunderstorm had evidently caused hypothermia.
Madeleine, who had a PhD from Columbia University, taught at Brown and at Queens College. She had been honored as a Christian who helped Jews escape the Nazis in France when she was just 17. She and Arthur would spend summers in her native France.
Grandson, Jeantet Fields, expresses the widespread incredulity felt at how something as simple as the lack of a cell phone signal could contribute to this loss of life. “Her knees worked, the car worked. Everything worked like it was supposed to except the cell phone.”
MTC is reportedly working hard to get connectivity within the year. Since the floods of last August — remember how surprised Gov. Cuomo was to discover he couldn’t call out? — they’ve had an emergency Verizon tower. Andes may have to wait a couple of years. The Andes Town Board is working on this project and was close to achieving coverage in 2008 before the recession hit. The issues raised become increasingly vital with the expanded boating on the Pepacton Reservoir, and hiking trails opening up. The Gazette would like to hear from anyone in the know on what are the challenges and where we stand. ~