A woman who was stranded for five days in the Grand Canyon said in an interview with ABC News she experienced “true panic.”
Amber Vanhecke, 24, talked about the moment she first realized she was lost without GPS or cell phone reception, saying, “I was panicking and crying and sobbing — I was a mess.”
Vanhecke went sightseeing by herself last week when her GPS directed her to make a wrong turn, leading her through rough terrain.
Originally from Denton, Texas, Vanhecke has traveled by herself numerous times before and visited national parks such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, Sequoias and Redwoods, she told ABC News.
“I planned out my itinerary, had it posted on Facebook and stuff and off I went with some non-perishables and water,” she said.
Vanhecke was a Girl Scout in her youth and so thought nothing of making her trip alone. During her drive, she followed the GPS from the highway onto a dirt road, which became more and more crude.
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“The problem was, the road wasn’t there,” Vanhecke said, explaining that her car soon ran out of gas. When she tried to make a 911 call, the call was dropped.
“And that was the first moment I felt true panic,” she recalls.
Over the course of five days, Vanhecke made an SOS sign, a signal fire, spotted a truck and chased after it to no avail, and constantly called 911.
“I felt very disconnected from just everything and everyone. I was like, ‘Is there even a search out?’ At that point, that question crossed my mind,” she said. “But apparently there was a miscommunication somewhere and no one was looking for me at all.”
On the fifth day, Vanhecke hiked 11 miles before getting through to a 911 operator. Although the call dropped, she was able to be rescued on March 17 by a helicopter rescue crew who spotted her car.
A member of the Air Rescue team with the Arizona Department of Public Safety told ABC News that Vanhecke “did a lot of things that helped her survive.”
Vanhecke created a GoFundMe page to help raise funds for medical expenses, as well as any repairs needed for her car. So far, the donations have exceeded her $1,200 goal.
The college student said her bucket list helped her remain composed.
“I had stuff to do,” she said. “Besides, I couldn’t do that to my sister or my mom or my dad. I just felt like I had a lot unfinished, but I just wasn’t going to give up.”