Washington teen found in woods 8 days after going missing

Posted at 10:51 AM, Aug 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-02 11:51:33-04

An 18-year-old who went missing on July 24 has been found eight days later in the heavily wooded Cascade Mountains east of Seattle in what rescuers are calling a "miracle."

Giovanna "Gia" Fuda went missing last Friday after last being seen on surveillance footage at a coffee shop in Index, Washington. Her car was found out of gas on Highway 2 the next day between Skykomish and Steven's Pass in extremely mountainous terrain. But after more than a week of searching, the authorities had turned up very little until Saturday.

"We are absolutely thrilled to know that search and rescue located her alive," Sgt. Ryan Abbott, with the King County Sheriff's Office, said at a press conference Saturday evening. "She's in stable condition. She is with her parents and being transported to a local hospital."

Search and rescuers came across a notebook that belonged to Fuda along a stream deep in the woods off Highway 2 at about 2:45 p.m. local time, Abbott said. The crew followed the stream and eventually came across clothes and shoes belonging to Fuda. The searchers kept following the creek up a steep embankment and found her 2 miles from the bottom of the ravine.

"It shows that miracles do happen and don't ever quit, and that's what we were doing," Abbott said. "They just continued to search and thank god they found her."

Abbott called the area a "dead zone" and said it was difficult to track Fuda's cellphone. Initially, authorities believed her phone had been turned off while searching for her, but are now unsure if it was off or just had no signal.

"When this all started, Friday was kind of the last day anyone had seen her," Abbott said. "We had King County Search and Rescue out for the first several days and we had search and rescue out from all over the state assisting us throughout the week. They are absolutely amazing. They are volunteers. They do this on their own time and, again, to find enough people to come out here, hundreds of volunteers day in and day out, to try and find Gia was amazing."

The King County Sheriff's Office had labeled her disappearance as "suspicious" on July 27, but said at the press conference after she was found that she may have just gotten lost looking for gas. Abbott said the nearest gas station to where her car was located was about 10 miles away and she might have simply gotten lost trying to walk there. He wasn't sure why or how she ended up in the woods.

Fuda had no food with her, but there are berries in the woods and she would have been able to drink from the creek, officials said.

One of those who found her was a doctor and was able to provide initial care, but Abbott said Fuda was not able to coherently explain what had happened in the eight days.

Her family and friends and hundreds of volunteers had spent every day searching for Gia.

"I feel hopeful, but I don't feel very good," Kristin Fuda, Gia's mother told Seattle ABC affiliate KOMO on Friday. "You just don't know what to think, it's totally unknown."

After the rescue, the sheriff's office thanked them for their help in the search and rescue mission.

"We are thrilled for the family," Abbott said. "They have been out with us here. They have been trying to help us search; they've been a great support. And from my understanding, of course, the parents were thrilled when they found out Gia was alive."