Crews rescue stranded hiker in Oak Creek Canyon

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck
Elise Heon By Andrew Michalscheck Elise Heon By Andrew Michalscheck

OAK CREEK CANYON, Ariz. -- Rescue crews have retrieved a woman who was stranded in Oak Creek Canyon.

On Friday afternoon, 50-year-old Elise Heon, a doctor from Canada, was removed from a ledge about 700 feet from the bottom of the canyon.

Heon appeared to be in good spirits as she waved while a helicopter took her to safety. She was then taken to a nearby hospital for an evaluation.  Rescue crews say she spent more than 30 hours without food, water or even a cell phone.

Heon was reported missing late Thursday night when she failed to check out of her room at the Junipine Resort.  She had planned on a short hike but ended up lost, off trail and stranded.

Rescue crews started searching for her late Thursday night, but didn’t find her until Friday morning when a nearby resident heard the hiker’s cries for help.

“(I) heard what sounded distinctly like help,” said Sally Gebler from her Oak Creek backyard.  “It was kinda a moan , ‘help.’

She called her husband to check it out.

“The area where she was hearing the voice is very remote, extremely hard to get to,” said Tom Gebler, experienced in hiking the area.  “I grabbed a GPS and started walking towards where I was hearing the yelling.”

“Once I got to a point where I could make contact with her, I just said, ‘I found you,’” said Gebler.  “I couldn’t see her; all I could do is see her through this crevice up in the mountain.  I got my GPS coordinates, and then by the time I got back down to the creek, there were sheriff’s (deputies) starting to come back up to the house, so I took them up to the point where they could hear her.”

“She did say that she was hurt,” said Tom Gebler.  “I could hear her crying.  She said she didn’t want to die; she spent the night out there.”

Search and Rescue crews from multiple agencies including Coconino County Sheriff’s Office and Sedona Fire devised a strategy to pull her to safety, finally lifting her to safety via helicopter.

She declined an on camera interview at the scene, but a spokesman said she expressed gratitude to everyone involved in her rescue.

“This is not the first time this has happened,” said Sally Gebler who’s helped in another past rescued.

She told 3TV she was in the right place, at the right time.  Her message to Dr. Heon: “I’m so happy you’re okay,” said Sally Gebler.  “I’m sorry you had to endure all that. I’m grateful you’re alive.”

Dr. Heon’s  hospital in Canada “The Hospital for Sick Children” issued a statement to 3TV:

“We are extremely thankful that one of our physicians, Dr. Elise Heon has been safely rescued and we look forward to her return.  Thank you to the emergency teams and everyone who assisted in her rescue.”