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Arizona woman rescued after spending nearly a week in the Montana wilderness

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Posted at 8:29 PM, May 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-10 23:30:54-04

Bad weather, rough terrain, no sunlight — it doesn't really hit you until you start to get higher what pilots face when they're in the middle of a rescue in the middle of the wilderness. These pilots are up against more than just the clock.

"It was just a huge mistake," explained 23-year-old Madeline Connelly, moments after crews rescued here from the middle of the Montana wilderness Wednesday morning.

"It ended up being seven days in treacherous weather conditions," she said.

Madeline had no food, no water, and no way out until rescuers arrived Wednesday.

"Amazingly, she was able to survive and do what she had to do," explains Jonah Nieves, a pilot with DPS.

Nieves is the same pilot who helped carry out a rescue near the Grand Canyon back in March.

Amber Vanhecke was spotted after spelling out "help" down below.

"It's a rush of a lot of different emotions, but it was a great feeling," says Nieves. "It made me smile. And made my heart feel good."

Madeline's family says they are "overjoyed" she's been found, even sending her text messages during the rescue — not sure she'd ever see them.

Nieves wants to remind everyone that getting rescued isn't just up to first responders.  He says if you're stranded, stay in an open area, use some kind of signal like a mirror, cell phone, or even a T-shirt, and if you can, try and stay as close to your car as possible.