While Rescuers Went for Help, Mom Missing for 7 Weeks Gathered Strength

PHOTO: Troy Hill, his daughter Whitnie Herman and her husband Chad Herman were out in their ATVs shedding, collecting Elk antlers, when they came across Rita Chreitiens van. She had been missing for seven weeks.PlayABC News
WATCH Family Finds Missing Mom's Van

While waiting for rescuers to return with help, the mother who survived for seven weeks on bits of food and water from melted snow alone in the Nevada wilderness gathered enough strength to pack her bags and tidy up the van she had called home, her rescuers said today.

Troy Hill, his daughter Whitnie Herman and her husband Chad Herman, spoke exclusively this morning to "Good Morning America." They were out in their ATVs shedding—collecting Elk antlers—when they came across 57-year-old Rita Chretien's van.

"We were like what is this doing here this time of year?" Hill said. When they got closer they noticed a sign tied to the van's antenna and then a head popped up. "I gave the signal, are you ok? And I saw head shaking in there, 'no, no.'"

Inside was Chretien--she had been there since mid-March.

Chad Herman said they were forced to leave Chretien to summon help.

"We couldn't move her, the road was too rough and we needed to get help there as soon as possible, so went to a ranch that I knew was down in the canyon," said Chad Herman. "We called 911 and lifeflight came out as soon as possible."

When they returned, "she had packed up her goods and was ready to go home, ready to get out of there," said Hill. "It was amazing once we got back there what the adrenaline had done for her."

He said Chretien had her suitcase packed and had taken down signs asking for help. "She was ready to go home," said Hill.

Chretein's husband, Albert Chretein, remains missing.

The couple's journey began on March 19 after they left their home in British Columbia for a 1,200 mile road trip to Las Vegas.

They had taken the scenic route and ended up off a remote logging road in northern Nevada.

On March 22, after days being stuck, Albert decided to go to find help. Despite a continuing search of three states and more than 3,000 square miles, there is still no sign of him.

Waiting for her husband to return, Chretien built a fire pit near the van but it was too wet to start a blaze. She huddled in her van, stuffing pages of an old phone book in the window cracks to keep the frigid air out. She spent those 48 days reading her Bible and other books.

When she was found on Friday, Doctors said Chretein had lost 30 pounds was only days from death.

"We could tell she was weak, she couldn't stand for long periods of time," Whitnie Herman said. "She's an amazing lady."