Mother found hurt in ravine after 5 days

A Caldwell County mother who disappeared five days earlier was found alive Monday night at the bottom of a ravine in her wrecked pickup truck, 100 feet off U.S. 321.

Family members said they believe a desire to see her children again kept Amber Clarke Pennell alive during the ordeal.

A search team found Pennell after following muddy tire tracks down a kudzu-covered ravine where her Toyota apparently crashed on her way home from work on the night of Aug. 20, said Detective B.J. Fore.

With a broken leg and internal injuries, Pennell was able to speak with rescuers, who found her about 8 p.m.

The 21-year-old was airlifted to Carolinas Medical Center, where she was treated for dehydration in addition to her injuries. But family members say doctors expect her to survive fully.

"They would not give up," Fore said of the team. "They wanted to try one more time so they could finish before it started raining again."

Justin Shoemate, a brother of Pennell, told NewsChannel 36, the Observer's news partner, that his sister stayed alive because of her children. Her daughter's third birthday is Friday.

"Her kids kept her going," Shoemate told NewsChannel 36. "That was the one thing that kept her going. We just thank God."

Pennell, who has two children, was last seen when she left her job at a restaurant in Lenoir and headed home to the Buffalo Cove area of Caldwell County. Her husband reported her missing about 2 a.m.

The accident happened about two miles north of Lenoir when Pennell apparently lost control, crossed a median and careened down the embankment. The N.C. Highway Patrol is investigating.

Authorities in Caldwell County released video Monday of Pennell buying items from a Wal-Mart store shortly before getting in her husband's truck and heading home last week.

Observer staff writer Steve Lyttle and NewsChannel 36 contributed.