After 'Dumb' Move, Lost Student 'Did Everything Right'

Amber VanHecke recalls her five-day ordeal near Grand Canyon
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 24, 2017 12:12 PM CDT
Student Lost for 5 Days in Arizona Recalls 'Dumb' Move
Amber VanHecke says she made this road barrier after a driver unknowingly passed by her.   (Arizona Department of Public Safety)

"It started with a dumb decision," says Amber VanHecke, a 24-year-old Texas college student who spent five days of her spring break lost near the Grand Canyon. After a day of hiking last week, VanHecke stopped for gas but didn't want to fill up for $2.70 per gallon because she thought it was too expensive, she tells Fox 4. She put only a small amount of gas in her tank and drove on, taking a rough road as instructed by her GPS, reports ABC News. But 20 miles from civilization, her car sputtered to a stop, leaving her without a cell signal. "That was the first moment I felt true panic," VanHecke says. But "I just wasn't going to give up." While bad judgment got her stuck, rescuer Jonah Nieves says the former Girl Scout "did everything right" from that point on, per the Arizona Republic.

Rationing her 34 bottles of water and snacks, including ramen she cooked on her dashboard, VanHecke made a "help" sign with rocks and stayed with her car, which allowed her to keep her cellphone charged. On March 17, she went in search of a cell signal, which she found 11 miles away. Her call to 911 cut out after 43 seconds, but it was enough time for dispatchers to pick up her general location. Rescuers arrived at her car in a helicopter soon after and found a note she'd left saying she’d gone down the road, which is exactly where they found her crying "tears of joy," Nieves says. VanHecke was treated for dehydration and exposure and was back exploring the next day. (A man says yoga helped him survive.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.