Two days after she was pulled from the wreckage of her car where she had been trapped since last week, a North Carolina mother's recovery has been dubbed a blessing by her husband and her rescuer.
"She's doing good considering," Mitchell Pennell said of his wife. "She's talking and she's, you know, banged up real bad."
Amber Pennell, 21, was found Monday night five days after she was reported missing after she failed to return home from work. Emergency services personnel, aided by K-9 units and community members, launched an intense search for the mother of two after concluding that she'd likely driven off a winding rural road she'd taken home from work.
Their hunch was right. Pennell's white Toyota had plunged down an 80-foot ravine, hidden by the thick brush that lines the area's roads.
"She didn't remember wrecking, but she remembered being down there," Mitchell Pennell told ABC News' Robin Roberts, "and she just said that ... she was going to stay strong for her babies and she did."
Pennell is recovering at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, some 50 miles northwest of her home. She suffered multiple fractures and a possible head injury along with dehydration and mild hypothermia.
The intensive search was about to be abandoned when Caldwell County Emergency Services Director Tommy Courtner spotted the odd pattern of tire track marks heading off the road Pennell had last seen traveling on. After getting out of his car to investigate, he spotted her Pennell's car.
"I saw a path in the kudzu, but you could see where it went airborne," Courtner told Roberts today. "When I looked over the bank, you could see the very back corner of the truck."
Courtner called out Pennell's name -- and her arm raised up through the window. Another call to her, and she managed to peek her head out as well.
And with that, the rural community gave a sigh of relief.
"At that point we realized we needed to start a rescue operation and get the proper equipment and staff there," Courtner said.
Caldwell County Emergency Services Manager Keith Davenport, who was also on the scene, said Tuesday that onlookers, many of who had been searching for Pennell, lined the road as rescuers lowered themselves by ropes to rescue Pennell, whose legs were pinned under the vehicle's dashboard. The crowd burst into applause when the ambulance drove her away.
Pennell left her waitressing job at Hannah's Bar-B-Que in Lenoir shortly before 10 p.m. Wednesday night. She lives about 20 miles away in rural Buffalo Cove, and the road connecting the towns, Davenport said, is "really rough steep terrain."
Pennell stopped at Wal-Mart to pick up a birthday card and some household items. She called her husband to ask if he needed anything and left, according to the store's surveillance camera, at 10:14 p.m.
It was that stop, and a later one for gas, that led police to believe something had happened to her and that she hadn't simply skipped town.
Pennell's husband reported her missing shortly after midnight, and by the next day the search was launched. By Friday, volunteers and emergency officials had tramped through area ravines, woods and trails, looking for mashed foliage.
Mitchell Pennell said he had deep gratitude for the rescuers who brought his wife up from the ravine, and for the police and emergency officials who worked so hard to find her.
As for Courtner, the man who first spotted the Toyota, "he's my hero," Mitchell Pennell said. "I love him more than anything."