THE family of an elderly man who survived two nights trapped in a wooded area, after going missing from his nursing home, have thanked the hundreds of volunteers who helped look for him.
Frank Helly (80) was last seen at the Moycullen nursing home in Co Galway at 7pm on Sunday. For two days, hundreds of friends, family and volunteers had carried out searches for the elderly man who suffers from Alzheimer's Disease.
His relieved nephew, GAA hurling hero Pat Malone said the family's hopes of finding Frank alive were beginning to fade before his discovery.
"It was such an overgrown spot where we found him. It's half a mile from the nursing home but about three quarters of a mile into the woods. There is definitely a God when we found him," he said.
Mr Malone said that after searching frantically over two days and nights, the family were beginning to lose hope.
"On Monday evening, hopes were fading as the darkness came in. How could he possibly survive for a second night out in the cold? But when we found him we just couldn't believe it. He's confused and wide eyed, but he was able to talk to us and seems to be okay," he added.
Mr Helly's son Michael was among the first to come on the scene where his father was found. Mr Helly was attended to by members of the Mountain Rescue team before being airlifted to University Hospital Galway where his anxious wife Phil and the rest of his family will meet him. Mr Malone thanked the hundreds of volunteers who assisted in the search for his uncle. He also thanked the gardai, the coastguard helicopter, garda air support and Casla Bay lifeboat crews. His family had been concerned that Mr Helly, who lived in Salthill, would attempt to make his way back to his childhood home of Peterswell, near Gort, which is almost 50km from the Moycullen home.
Mr Helly had only been a resident of the home for the past two weeks.