Canadian woman missing since March found in Elko
ELKO (AP) – A British Columbia woman who vanished with her husband seven weeks ago on their way to Las Vegas was found alive Friday in a remote part of northeastern Nevada, police said.
Rita Chretien, 56, told her son, Raymond, that she survived by eating snow. Her husband, Albert, 59, set off on foot weeks ago in search of help, she said. There was no sign of him.
“We’re stunned,” Raymond Chretien told The (Portland) Oregonian in a telephone interview. “We haven’t fully digested it. This is a miracle.”
Hunters found the woman with her van in Elko County.
A couple on four-wheelers spotted the Chretiens’ van in a ravine, Elko County sheriff’s detective Sgt. Kevin McKinney told the Elko Daily Free Press.
She was airlifted to St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center in Twin Falls, Idaho, where a nursing supervisor said she was in fair condition Friday night.
McKinney said officers interviewed her at the hospital.
The sheriff’s office planned to begin a search for the missing man on Saturday, Raymond Chretien said, adding he and his wife were flying to join his mother at the hospital.
The woman told her son she and her husband left their Penticton, British Columbia, home on March 19, crossed into Washington and reached Baker City, Ore., that afternoon, where they bought gas at a food mart and were captured on a video surveillance camera.
Raymond Chretien told The Oregonian they reached Nevada the same day, sightseeing on back roads. The couple own a commercial excavating business and were headed to Las Vegas for a trade show.
But then their 2000 Chevrolet Astro van got stuck in mud. Three days later, Albert Chretien set out on foot, his wife said.
“I don’t believe they were prepared for winter weather,” Raymond Chretien said. “They don’t go camping.”
He says his mother doubts whether she would have lived more than another two or three days had the hunters not found her.
Rita Chretien kept a journal to let her family know what had happened if she didn’t survive. Her son says she immediately apologized for the anguish she caused him, his two brothers and other relatives.
“She felt extremely bad for us all,” he said.
The couple were reported missing by relatives after they didn’t return home March 30.
In late April, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Baker City police and other agencies said an extensive search had failed to turn up any sign of the couple. Vehicles and aircraft had covered 3,000 miles of roads, looking for any sign of the van.