HOUSTON – A Houston couple has a harrowing story of survival after being stranded for six days in a remote desert area of southern Utah.
Helena and Gerald Byler were on vacation in Utah and had decided to drive two hours from their motel to Lake Powell.
What was supposed to be a short drive turned into a GPS nightmare. The couple says they were routed onto dangerous, rocky dirt roads with big drops. They wounded up eight hours away from their destination in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
"(The) rocks were too big to climb,” Helena Byler said. “And looking back, impossible."
More than a thousand miles away, in Houston, Helena's older sister, Margarita Falchetti, was marveling at the ordeal.
“Six days in the desert, I still cannot believe it,” Falchetti said. “She was so strong.”
Falchetti filled in pieces of her sister’s story for KPRC2.
"The rocks were so big, so terrible, it was tearing the car apart," Falchetti said.
She said the couple left the car and walked the rarely traveled roads without water and food. When 76-year-old Gerald could not go any farther, 78-year-old Helena pressed on to get help.
Falcetti said Helena was found lying in the road days later by a rancher. Helena was hallucinating, but alive.
“She saw Indians, she talked to people, all that was in her mind,” Falchetti said. “What she had to do was drink her own urine but that's one of the reasons why she survived, the doctor says."
From a helicopter, an SOS sign the couple made with rocks and flowers helped a search team locate Gerald. He was found in a trailer.
"This is unbelievable. It's a miracle because I thought he was dead," Helena said.
Their hospital bands -- now a testament to their strength.
"I knew that God was with me,” said Helena. “That he was going to help us.”
“It was a miracle," Falchetti said. “It’s just amazing. We just can’t believe it. She said what she did was pray and pray and pray.”
Gerald Byler is still in the hospital.
Falchetti said he suffered a stroke at some point in the ordeal. He is recuperating and when he is released the couple will return to Houston.