POLICE officers involved in a major missing person search in South Somerset have been praised for their determination and professionalism after successfully finding a badly injured woman who had been lying stranded in a ditch for eight hours.

At 5.45pm on Friday (Nov 19) a man from Merriott reported that his wife was missing after she failed to turn up for work earlier that afternoon.

She had not been seen since 11am and her disappearance was graded high-risk as it was out of character and there was severe wind and rain in the area.

A command centre was set-up in Merriott and enquiries found the last signal from her phone was between Merritt and Dinnington.

Officers established she had gone for a cycle ride and quickly became concerned that she had come off her bike and was unable to get home or raise help.

All available staff were briefed and allocated areas to search and the police helicopter and Exmoor Search and Rescue were also involved in the rescue effort.

At 11.35pm her bike was seen on top of a 20ft ditch at the side of a road.

The woman was found at the bottom of the ditch suffering from hyperthermia and injuries to her leg.

She had been stranded in the elements and without any warm or waterproof clothing for around eight or nine hours.

The victim, who is in her 40s, was recovered from the ditch by Exmoor Search and Rescue and taken by ambulance to Yeovil District Hospital.

Chief Inspector Sean Williams said: "This was a challenging incident in which officers worked hard searching a large area to find a woman who had been missing for a long time and in bad weather.

"Many were out on foot searching ditches and tracks in some miserable conditions.

"Everyone involved in the search put in a fantastic effort and demonstrated determination, professionalism and team spirit.

"In particular, Inspector Mike Griffiths is to be highly praised for his leadership in this incident and for his organisation of the response.

"The two officers who found her are also to be congratulated for their efforts and for their calmness under pressure dealing with this incident.

"I am pleased that we were able to find and help this woman and wish her a speedy recovery."

Police are investigating the possibility that the victim was knocked off her bicycle by a black vehicle.

Anybody who witnessed a collision or has information which could help the investigation is asked to contact PC Chris Williams at Chard Police Station on 0845-4567000.