Woman stranded in AZ desert for 5 days shares stories of her ordeal

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Amber VanHecke survived being stranded for five days. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Amber VanHecke survived being stranded for five days. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
VanHecke rationed her food and water. (Source: DPS) VanHecke rationed her food and water. (Source: DPS)
A DPS helicopter found her after she got cell service and called 911. (Source: DPS) A DPS helicopter found her after she got cell service and called 911. (Source: DPS)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

After being stranded in the desert near the Grand Canyon for five days, we're hearing from the Texas woman who survived the ordeal.

Driving solo through northern Arizona, 24-year-old Amber VanHecke found herself lost miles down a remote dirt road within the Havasupai reservation.

"I tried to back up but was completely out of gas," said VanHecke.

Panic set in. Her biggest fear?

"Dying alone,” she said. “Probably hurting my friends and family by dying alone doing something stupid."

[ORIGINAL STORY: Woman stranded 5 days in remote area of Arizona]

VanHecke rationed her food and water.

"I just shifted to where I thought about it, like, 'OK this is the long game. I need to make an S.O.S. sign.’ The S.O.S. sign was too small. I need to make a help sign. I need to make a signal fire,’” said VanHecke.

To pass the time, she read books and recorded a video diary on her phone.

Wondering if she’d make it to see her family again, she left messages for everyone back home.

"And Dad, I love you so much. You're my papa. I love you both," she recorded.

Several times VanHecke heard helicopters overhead.

Another day she documented another missed opportunity to get out.

"I chased down a truck but they didn't see me in the rear view. My feet are torn up because I wasn't wearing shoes," she said.  

Then, on day five, she started walking.

"I hate being helpless," she said.  

Eleven miles later, she finally picked up enough cell signal to make a call to 911.

A DPS helicopter found her not long after. Her rescuers said she did everything right, which is probably why she's still alive to tell about it.

[WATCH: DPS talks about the rescue of a woman who had been stranded for 5 days]

"Eventually, I’ll feel OK to fall asleep again and it's just a process and I’m working on it," VanHecke said.

Amber's now back in Texas. She says one of the first things she did was go out for a steak dinner with a friend. 

She's set up a GoFundMe to help pay for medical expenses. 

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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Lauren ReimerLauren Reimer joined the 3TV/CBS 5 family in June 2016. She is originally from Racine, WI but is no stranger to our heat.

Click to learn more about Lauren.

Lauren Reimer

She previously worked for KVOA in Tucson, covering topics that matter to Arizonans including the monsoon, wildfires and border issues. During the child migrant crisis of 2014, Reimer was one of only a handful of journalists given access to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility in Nogales, where hundreds of unaccompanied children were being held after crossing into the U.S. from Central America. Before that, Reimer worked at WREX in Rockford, IL. Lauren is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee and still visits home often. When not chasing news stories, Reimer loves to explore, enjoying everything from trying new adventurous foods to visiting state and national parks or local places of historical significance.

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