A Colorado woman whose car veered off a highway and into an embankment used a red-and-white umbrella stored in her car to write pleas for help.
The Chevrolet Malibu belonging to Kristin Hopkins, a 43-year-old single mother of four, was found Sunday flipped upside down after it had careened at least 200 feet off a winding Colorado mountain road near Fairplay, Colorado, sometime after she was last seen April 27.
The person who saw Hopkins' wrecked car reported what they believed to be a dead body inside - but firefighters found Hopkins alive, having survived there for at least five days.
"He was getting ready to break the window to gain access to her when she put her hand against the window," Lt. Jim Cravener of the North West Fire Protection District said of a fellow first responder. "That's when he said, 'She's alive.'"
"She was in and out of consciousness at the time," Cravener said.
Rescuers noticed that Hopkins, who was placed into a statewide police database April 29 as a missing person, had left notes on an umbrella to try to catch the attention of passing drivers.
"The one that was pretty disturbing said, "six days, no food, no water," said Cravener, who noted the writings also included, "need a doctor," and, "please help me."
Rescuers pulled Hopkins from her car and transported her via helicopter to a Denver hospital.
Hopkins is now in critical condition with "multiple internal and external injuries," according to family friend Brian Willie. She also had both of her feet amputated.
First responders said the most amazing thing of Hopkins' ordeal was that she was still alive.
"What hope she had, what her drive was, we don't know," said firefighter Josh Thompson. "But there was something there that kept her handing on and fighting."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.