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Elderly Manhattan Couple Arthur & Madeleine Morris Die After Minor Car Wreck In Catskills

Couple Tried To Call 9 Times For Help, But Had No Cell Service, Relatives Say
Madeleine and Arthur Morris (credit: The Morris Family)

Madeleine and Arthur Morris (credit: The Morris Family)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – An elderly New York City couple died last week after trying to make nine fruitless calls from a cell phone for help after crashing their car in the Catskills, relatives said Friday.

1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks reports

Arthur Morris, 88, and his wife, 89-year-old Madeleine, died on May 3 in Andes, New York after their car slid 60 feet down an embankment near their vacation home.

EXTRA: Click Here To Hear The Full Interview With The Morris’s Grandson

Jeantet Fields told 1010 WINS his grandfather got out of the vehicle only after several failed attempts to reach 911.

“None of the calls went through,” he said. “As best we can surmise, they probably tried to get out of the car because they couldn’t get any help on the phone.”

Fields said Arthur was asphyxiated after he became wedged under the car door while trying to get out of the vehicle. He said his grandmother died of exposure after walking to a neighbor’s empty house in the rain.

“When she was found the next day around noon, she was found soaked and she had actually pulled a plastic tarp over herself to cover herself,” he said. “The medical examiner said that she was in excellent health and had a good 10 years left, but on the inside she showed definite signs of exposure.”

Officials said cell service in the area is very limited because of the mountains.

“There’s been a problem for a long time, but it plagues law enforcement as well as the general public because of the remoteness of it and because the terrain,” Capt. James E. Barnes with the New York State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation told WCBS 880. “I don’t know what the solution would be.”

Barnes said even radio reception is poor for law enforcement and rescue officials due to the geographical area.

Fields said he hopes his grandparents didn’t die in vain and that their deaths will spur changes in cell phone coverage in rural areas.

“If anything can come from this tragedy, it’s lets actually let people in rural areas have the same type of thorough cell coverage that we have in urban areas,” he said.

A local telephone company official said it’s difficult to lure big companies to the area to set up service.

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