Missing elderly man found

A Calaveras County man was found safe Tuesday morning after he was reported missing from his Mokelumne Hill home over the weekend.

Duane M. Gates, 79, was found about a quarter of a mile from his house by a neighbor after an extensive search over the past two days failed to turn up any sign of the man.

Gates suffers from dementia and asthma and was last seen about 5 p.m. Saturday by a caregiver, according to Calaveras County Sheriff's Sgt. Chris Hewitt.

Hewitt said the neighbor noticed a man waving his arms at the foot of a hill near the side of a residential street. Sheriff's deputies were called to the scene at 9:42 a.m. and identified the man as Gates.

He was taken to a Modesto hospital where he was treated for an injury to one of his arms, dehydration and for his other chronic health problems.

Hewitt said it is possible that Gates became disoriented at some point over the weekend and fell down the hill.

He said Gates likely left his house some time Sunday and was lucky to survive being lost in the woods.

"It's an excellent outcome," Hewitt said. "Some of that country up there can be unforgiving."

The retired Walnut Creek salesman was reported missing about 6 p.m. Sunday by his son, Michael Gates, of Rancho Cordova.

Gates said he was relieved to have his dad back safely. He said his father was doing well and responding to treatment, but his fragile mental state makes it difficult to determine why he left the house or where he has been for the past two days.

"He may have been out there a couple of days, but if you ask him he would say he had only been out there an hour," the younger Gates said.

He said his father has limited mobility because of breathing problems and needs medication to regulate his blood oxygen level. He survived the elements wearing little more than a sweater and denim pants.

"The past few nights have been fairly warm, so we lucked out in that regard," Gates said.

Duane Gate's wife died three years ago and he is tended to by caregivers and family members on a daily basis, Michael Gates said.

Search and rescue teams scoured the area on Monday using dogs and a helicopter, but found no sign of Gates.

Hewitt said investigators will interview the man this week to try and find out how he became lost.

The Union Democrat
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