Family, friends 'overjoyed' Elizabeth Thomas found safe

Cummins and Thomas were found in a cabin in northern California on Thursday. (NBC Video) 

Family and friends of Elizabeth Thomas are ready to welcome the 15-year-old home after a long six week nationwide search. 

Thomas went missing March 15. Authorities say her former teacher, 50-year-old Tad Cummins, kidnapped her. He faces state and federal charges.

Thomas and Cummins were found in a cabin in a remote area of Northern California Thursday morning after the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation received a tip late Wednesday night.

Thomas' father told reporters he was "overjoyed" she was found safe.

"We're going to have to figure out what state of mind she's in and probably get her some help. May be a long road but at least we've got her back now," Anthony Thomas said.

In Thomas' hometown of Columbia, in Maury County, Tennessee, people have put up bright green ribbons and balloons to welcome her home.

MORE: Tad Cummins faces federal charges, Elizabeth Thomas safe

TBI, FBI and Maury County authorities flew to California Thursday afternoon, and planned to bring Thomas home on a TBI plane Friday.

Sarah Flannigan said she hasn't stopped wearing her green ribbon since her friend went missing more than a month ago. 

"I'm so excited. I've been waiting for 38 days. Like I've hardly been able to sleep and just to know that she is safe and coming home is amazing," Flannigan said. 

"You never do expect it to happen to you and when it does it's so surreal, the past almost six weeks has been like a bad episode of the 'Twilight Zone.' I'd keep hoping I'd wake up from this nightmare," she said. 

TIMELINE: Search for missing Tennessee teen ends in California

Chandler Anderson, a former coworker of Cummins, was delighted to hear the rescue and arrest was made peacefully.

"I mean we know he was armed and we know he has the ego the size of Texas, so the fact that he went peacefully is wonderful and the fact that she is healthy is great," he said. 

Anderson and his partner put up a $10,000 reward for the safe return of Thomas.

"We are just glad to have her home and my partner and I put up the reward to bring her home so we are just glad to have her home and we are ready to write a check," he said. 

Anderson said if the tipster doesn't take the reward money, he wants to give it to the Thomas family as a gift. 

© 2017 WBIR.COM


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