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Woman missing for nearly a week in Montana found alive

Posted at 12:43 PM, May 10, 2017

A 23-year-old woman who went missing last week while hiking in a Montana wilderness area south of Glacier National Park has been found alive, along with her dog.

Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry tells the Flathead Beacon that Madeline Connelly was located Wednesday morning and was fine. Rescuers with Two Bear Air helicopter tell abcfoxmontana.com that Connelly offered to hike out, but they insisted on giving her a ride.

Connelly and her dog went for a day hike in the Great Bear Wilderness on May 4 and did not return. Family members located her car two days later and called law enforcement.

"It was just a huge mistake," explained 23-year-old Madeline Connelly, moments after crews rescued her 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."

Connelly is originally from the Chicago area but had been living in Arizona. Family members said she stopped in Montana on her way to Alaska where she has a job managing a bakery.

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.