Reported by: Britney Glaser
It's a story that has grabbed national headlines: two young Michigan teenagers, told by their parents to quit seeing each other, run away to be together. After nine days on the road, the young couple's trip ended 1,000 miles from home - in Holly Beach, Louisiana.
It was a typical Monday on the job for Cameron Parish paramedic team, Troy Meaux and Bradley Lester. "We had to go down to Holly Beach for a stand-by," says Lester, "while our Johnson Bayou unit transported an individual to the hospital."
While on stand-by at the intersection of Highway 82 and Highway 27, the paramedics saw a van pass by, fitting the description of one reported stolen. "I told my partner," says Meaux, "I believe that matches the description of the vehicle and we followed it around and saw that it had Michigan license plates."
Meaux and Lester had no idea that the van was being used as a runaway car by 15-year-old Gage Petherbridge and his 13-year-old girlfriend, Hannah McConnell, the Michigan teen couple missing for nine days. The paramedic team says they were simply doing their job by monitoring a suspicious scene.
"We just drove around and made sure to get a closer look of the vehicle," says Meaux, "and then contacted the sheriff's office and told them that we do have them spotted." It was on a quiet stretch of beach that the two teens were seen, simply walking along the sand and playing with seagulls. But, little did they know that moments later, their time on the road would finally come to an end.
Cameron Parish Chief Deputy Ron Johnson says, "The ambulance personnel advised the sheriff's office that the van had left the Holly Beach area and was back westbound on Highway 82." Cameron Parish sheriff's deputies staked out the highway and stopped the van in its tracks. "They did cooperate," says Johnson, "I guess by the time the lights came on, they probably knew what it was about."
The teens were not arrested, but they were brought into isolation rooms inside the Cameron Parish Courthouse until their parents could pick them up. NBC's Inside Edition cameras were with John and Julie McConnell when they received the news that their daughter and her boyfriend were found safe in the bayou state. "It's like watching a horror movie," says John, "and your kid's in it and you can't get them out."
Tuesday morning, both sets of parents set out together for Louisiana to bring their teens home.