Family describes ordeal of losing toddler for 24 hours in Michigan woods

By Koco McAboy - Reporter

MONROE, Mich. - A 2-year-old girl who spent more than 24 hours in the woods alone is back home with her family in Monroe. 

Gabriella Vitale's family spoke with Local 4 about their overwhelming camping trip in Oscoda County. Gabriella has autism and loves exploring. The family took her camping for the first time in Comins Township before Gabriella went missing. 

"I didn't lose hope, but I went through that night without her, and that's nothing I've ever experienced, and I never wish this upon anyone or anything," said Alyssa Bijarro, Gabriella's mother. 

Alyssa and her boyfriend, Jonathan, were packing up to go back home to Monroe with a few family members when Gabriella wandered off. Bijarro said she kept her eyes on Gabriella the entire time, but looked away briefly. 

"This could happen to anyone. It literally takes two seconds, two minutes to just look away, and she was gone," Bijarro said. 

Gabriella was missing for more than 24 hours in a heavily wooded area until she stumbled across a cabin in the woods, and walked up to the porch. 

"Her just popping out of the woods and finding that house, it's all God's doing," Bijarro said. 

Bijarro and her family have a strong faith in God, and believe God kept their precious loved one safe from danger. 

"I do believe what God did is he made it known to the world now about his existence. It was God's blessing. It was God over everything," said Ignacio Bijarro, Gabriella's grandfather. 

Gabriella was reunited with her mother and family members Tuesday afternoon. 

"More than ecstatic when I seen her. It was just truly a blessing. We all seen her and hugged her, and just fell apart, glad to see her," Bijarro said. 

Gabriella was taken to a hospital, and the doctors checked her vitals and gave the family the OK to discharge her. 

"For the amount of time that she's been out there, she's just got scrapes and that's about it. She's actually acting like nothing actually happened. She slept really good throughout the night," Bijarro said. 

Gabriella is now home with her family watching movies, and getting back into a normal routine. 

The family is thankful to everyone who helped look for Gabriella. 

"I just want to say thank you to everybody that came out, called off work and helped search. There was a lot of hard work put into finding her, and it's truly a blessing," Bijarro said.

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