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Missing runner rescued from O.C. forest

Video Only on ABC7
September 23, 2009 8:47:20 AM PDT
After disappearing over the weekend, two long distance runners have finally been found.Maria Natera-Armenta is in serious condition at Mission Hospital after suffering severe dehydration. She was rescued by helicopter from the Cleveland National Forest shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday.

Exclusive video captured by AIR 7 shows Maria, known to her friends as Gina, waving as authorities rescued her from the falls area by the Hot Springs Trail in the Cleveland National Forest.

"I'm eternally grateful, you know, I appreciate everything you guys have done. Thanks for finding my wife," said Armando Armenta, the woman's husband.

The 36-year-old had been missing since Sunday afternoon when she went for a run with her 50-year-old brother-in-law Fidel Diaz.

The two had told family members they were going on a six to eight hour run along the rugged mountain trails off Ortega Highway. The woman's husband says it was not uncommon for the ultra runners, who are used to running 50 or 100 miles at time.

"She could last as long as she wants, she's really tough. I don't mess with her," said Armando.

Volunteers, many of them fellow runners and friends of Gina's, joined the search for the two missing runners Wednesday morning.

Diaz walked out on his own around 10 a.m. near the Lazy W Ranch, about a mile and a half from where he left his vehicle.

He told authorities they ran out of water Sunday afternoon and split up not far from the area where rescuers located Gina.

What exactly happened during the past few days is still not clear. Gina was not wearing pants when she was rescued.

However, she was strong enough to walk from the helicopter into the hospital with some help.

Her husband was relieved she's alive and anxious to see her.

"She's really, really strong, strong willed. Never tell her she can't do anything because she'll prove you wrong 100 percent of the time," said Armando.

Investigators with the Orange County Sheriff's Department plan to interview Gina to find out what happened. They have already interviewed Diaz, who did not require any hospitalization.

Gina Natera-Armenta and Armando Armenta released the following statement:

"We grateful for all the help and support of our family and Gina's running club friends, the San Diego Bad Rats and OC Trailheads, who volunteered their time to search the trails. We are especially grateful to the Orange County Sheriff's Department Search and Rescue team, the helicopter pilots, and all supporting staff. Thank you for not giving up."

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