Her handwritten notes begged for help.
“PLEASE STOP,” one said. “I am out of gas … stuck here for [four] days.”
Amber VanHecke, 24, a student at the University of North Texas, had been stranded in a remote area of the Arizona desert, near the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Authorities found her in safe condition Friday, out of food and nearly out of water five days after her car ran out of gas.
She had called 911, but her call dropped before the operator could obtain an exact location, according to a press release Wednesday from the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
Sheriff’s deputies and state troopers determined that VanHecke was likely in the Havasupai Reservation. From a helicopter, searchers spotted her car next to a makeshift “HELP” sign.
The car was empty, but a note left by VanHecke said she was going to walk along the road to find a cellphone signal. Searchers soon spotted her waving in the road.
Edgar Bissonette, a paramedic with the Arizona DPS, said VanHecke “did everything right” to survive.
“She was smart and prepared,” Bissonette said. “She had food and water in her vehicle for the trip. Even though she was down to her last bit of water, it kept her going. When she left her vehicle, she left notes so we knew where to find her.”
VanHecke, in a Facebook post, explained that she was heading to the Havasu Falls trailhead, using Google Maps for navigation with about 70 miles of gas left before the needle hit E. When the navigation told her to turn down one road, she was skeptical but “decided to trust Google,” she wrote.
About 35 miles later, the GPS told her to turn down a road that didn’t exist. Soon, she was lost and low on fuel.
She spent the next few days trying to find help, including hiking 11 miles from her car to get a signal and call 911.
“Even then,” she wrote, “the call dropped after 49 seconds and I had to pray they got enough info to find me.”
VanHecke recounted her ordeal in an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America this morning: