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Student stranded for 5 days near Grand Canyon grew desperate

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    A sign made by Amber VanHecke, who was stranded for five days near the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The 24-year-old Texas college student left signs on the car that ran out of gas detailing where she was headed in search of cell phone signal, and rescuers eventually found her.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. >> A Texas college student stranded for five days near the Grand Canyon says she was making farewell videos for her family as she grew desperate for help.

Arizona authorities say 24-year-old Amber VanHecke was well-equipped and did everything right after getting lost in a remote area during a solo road trip.

VanHecke said in a Facebook post that she was heading to a hiking trail but was led astray by her maps app and wound up in the middle of nowhere with an empty gas tank.

She told ABC’s Good Morning America that she even tried to chase down a truck to no avail.

“I was panicking and crying and sobbing. I was a mess,” VanHecke told the show.

VanHecke said nobody had reported her missing because of a miscommunication with her family.

VanHecke didn’t have cell phone access. She made large help signs and even tried to start a signal fire, but couldn’t.

She eventually hiked for miles to a spot where she had a signal, although the call dropped before Arizona authorities could trace her location.

Still, rescuers had an idea about where she might be, the Arizona Department of Public Safety said. Rescuers were able to spot her abandoned car using a search helicopter.

VanHecke had left signs on the car detailing where she was headed in search of cell phone signal, and rescuers eventually found her.

VanHecke was treated at a Flagstaff hospital for exposure but is now back in Texas, where she is a student at the University of North Texas.

“Five days ago I thought I was gonna die in the desert and now I’m trying to go to class,” she said.

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