Reporting Diana Rocco
By Diana Rocco
DOUGLASS TOWNSHIP, Pa. (CBS) - Boarded windows and a cluttered porch are telling signs of a house in disrepair. The 59-year-old woman who lived in the Douglass Drive home for decades, says she is thankful for the friends who helped rescue her after she was trapped in her own basement for days.
“She’s very private. She didn’t let nobody in. We took her food shopping; everyone in the neighborhood did stuff for her,” says a woman who lived across the street.
But when friends and neighbors hadn’t heard from Rosalynn Willis, they went over to check on her.
They couldn’t get in but they could hear her yelling from the basement and called 911.
“We were talking to her and she was able to tell us the situation. She’d been down there since Sunday, going down there to check on a breaker,” said Willis’ longtime friend, Helen Peace.
“We were just surprised she was okay. The basement stairs gave way and she couldn’t get back up,” said neighbor Sandra Norwood.
Willis went down the stairs Sunday evening and the stairs collapsed as she made it to the bottom. She spent two days in feet of water and sewage, without food or water. It was 4 p.m. on Tuesday before she was found.
“We actually sent a dive team down to harness her and wrap ropes around her. We pulled her up half way but couldn’t get her up because the floor started to collapse,” said Art Heist, the assistant fire chief for Amity Fire Company who helped in the rescue.
“Never in my 27 years have we ever seen anything like this,” Heist said.
Rescuers say the house was filled with garbage and mold. The floor and roof are leaking and unstable. It took 40 rescuers more than four hours to pull Willis out. She was dehydrated and hungry.
“She said she prayed a lot and we were praying too. We’re glad she’s okay,” Peace said of her lifelong friend who is now in good condition at Redding Hospital.
Her house has been condemned and Willis will not be allowed to return home.