North Texas student survives being stranded near Grand Canyon for 5 days

A North Texas college student stranded near the Grand Canyon for five days shared with FOX4 the remarkable story of how she survived.

Amber VanHecke, 24, is thankful she is alive to tell her story and go to class at UNT once again after her five-day ordeal -- one she’ll never forget but would never want to live through again.

VanHecke documented her long days stranded in the desert 20 miles from civilization with a video diary.

Her unexpected adventure began after a day at the Grand Canyon.

"It started with a dumb decision because gas was $2.70 by the Grand Canyon, I was like that's really expensive. I'll just get enough,” VanHecke said. But, she made a wrong turn.

"I started driving around saying "God, I need to find the road, Please!""

Before VanHecke could find her way, her car ran out of gas and it was getting dark. The next day, In hopes of getting found she spelled out ‘HELP’ with rocks.

"I'd seen enough movies where people built help signs,” VanHecke said, who also started rationing her food. "I was eating dried nuts, fruits, seeds, and ramen when I cooked it on the dashboard."

Van Hecke allowed herself only 2 of her 34 bottles of water each day.

Her phone stayed charged with her car's battery, but by day five she decided she had to leave the safety of her car and supplies and go in search of cell phone service.

"I wrote a note, ‘I'm walking east to try to find a cell phone signal, if you read this please come help me.’"

She says after hiking for about 11 miles she finally got a signal and was able to call 911 -- but after 49 seconds the call dropped.

"I wasn't sure I'd given enough information to them to help me,” VanHecke said.

But she had and finally help arrived in a helicopter.

"Trooper said, ‘Hey look to your right I see something.’ He looked to the right and I looked to the right he saw one object and I saw another object so what I saw was a glare,” said Jonah Nieves, Arizona Department of Public Safety.

The glare was her car and with the note inside they were able to find VanHecke.

"I was crying and I was a mess,” VanHecke said. “When Edgar walked up, he was like, ‘Hi, did you call?’"

VanHecke says the ordeal has taught her a few things – listen to her gut and follow her inner advice.


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