HOUSTON - It was an emotional reunion for a 16-year-old and her family who saw each other for the first time since the teenager was rescued from a boat off the coast of Honduras earlier this week.
"I didn't think I was ever going to see anybody again," said a sunburned and limping Amber Burkett after arriving Saturday at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.
The Bridge City, Louisiana teenager was one of eight people who were rescued by a Coast Guard aircrew days after they were reported missing, and 55 miles from their intended destination of Utila Island, Honduras.
Rescue crews searched more than 4,502 square miles from last Saturday until finding the boat on Wednesday, according to the U.S. Coast guard.
"I didn't think I was going to get out of that boat," said Burkett after a long and emotional hug from her mother.
"It was horrible. There are no words to explain it," said her mother Jackie Capehart about waiting for days before hearing her daughter had been rescued.
Burkett said the group was traveling to hang out at the beach when the boat ran out of gas.
"We were thinking, 'Oh, a boat is going to pass us and we will be okay.' No boat passed and we just started to drift and at night, they had like whale sharks, thirty of them trying to tip the boat over. It was scary," said Burkett, describing the ordeal. "It started getting real stressful and tense, and emotions were running high. We survived just feeding off each other and keeping hope because we had no food, no water, no nothing."
"Every night, we would see the land and we would try to get to it by steering the boat and trying to get to the current, but the wind wouldn't work with us. Everybody on the boat was like you can't give up. You gotta keep the faith. We are going to make it out of this," said the teenager. "What kept us alive was really just each other and feeding off each others hope, because at one point everybody was ready to give up."
There was no food on the boat and Burkett said some of the stranded passengers caught a sea bird to eat.
"They put it on the bow of the boat and the sun cooked it," she told her mother. "I couldn't eat it."
Instead the teenager said she dreamed of Taco Bell for days.
"Taco Bell first as soon as we leave here," promised her laughing mother.
The teenager also requested the fast food for her welcome home party. Her family and friends drove her from Houston back home to Bridge City, Louisiana Saturday for a weekend of planned parties.
Burkett said she will take home with her the lessons she learned while drifting at sea.
"I understand now if I didn't have a purpose, I would have died then," added the smiling sunburned teenager. "I understand now I have a life for a reason and I will live it the best way I can now. Don't take anything for granted."
Burkett's mother said she wanted her daughter to take the trip to see family to get away, relax and enjoy life on an island because the teenager had a rough year. It was supposed to be a six-week trip. Burkett was there for three weeks with one of the weeks spent drifting at sea.
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