Elderly US woman freezes to death as helpless husband lies nearby

A man walks in the snow in Washington, after a snowfall ahead of a major storm expected to hit the US.
A man walks in the snow in Washington, after a snowfall ahead of a major storm expected to hit the US.PHOTO: REUTERS

GEORGIA, UNITED STATES - An elderly woman in the American state of Georgia has died of hypothermia next to her husband after she was left in the freezing cold for hours.

Local media reports said the 74-year-old woman, who relies on a walker, had fallen while trying to help her wheelchair-bound husband who had also slipped, leaving both lying helplessly outside their home in the winter.

The CBS news website on Tuesday (Jan 19) cited Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills as telling reporters that the incident happened last Thursday (Jan 14) when Mrs Maria Riffe and her husband, Mr Roy Riffe, were going down the concrete walkway outside their home in Eatonton, Georgia.

The 86-year-old Mr Riffe, who is immobile, was in a motorised wheelchair when he veered from the walkway and fell out of the wheelchair.

In her rush to save her husband, the woman also fell before she could reach him, collapsing on the ground a few metres away.

The incident took place at 5.30pm on Thursday (Jan 14) and the authorities said both were not discovered by authorities until 10.30am the next day.

Authorities said the woman likely died in the freezing cold as she was only wearing a housecoat, but her husband was able to survive as he was clad in a jacket and fleece pants.