Jubilee! Missing Canadian Woman Found Alive After 49 Days

Family prays for "another miracle" as searchers scour Nevada wilderness for missing Penticton man

By Frank Luba and Cheryl Chan, The Province May 8, 2011

Albert and Rita Chretien left Penticton at about 6 a.m. on Mar. 19 and were last seen crossing the border into the U.S. at Oroville just over an hour later.

Albert and Rita Chretien left Penticton at about 6 a.m. on Mar. 19 and were last seen crossing the border into the U.S. at Oroville just over an hour later.
Photograph by: Handout, Chretien family

The day before she was found, Penticton mother Rita Chretien felt she was either going to die or be rescued after being stranded for 49 days on a remote forest road on the Nevada-Idaho border.

Chretien, 56, was ready to either “go home to be with her Saviour or to be rescued,” said her son, Raymond, on Sunday.

“She was prepared and she had a clear indication there would be something on Friday,” he said.

Hunters stumbled upon Chretien on Friday, just as her premonition had suggested. The remote area is 1,585 metres above sea level and 32 kilometres from the nearest highway.

A massive search for her and her 59-year-old husband, Albert, had previously found no trace of the couple, who had been driving to a construction trade show in Las Vegas when they went missing.

“Never give up, never lose your faith,” said Raymond. “Miracles happen, and never underestimate that.”

Now the family is hoping for another miracle — to find Albert alive. After their van got stuck, Albert took a GPS and left his wife to go for help. He has not been seen since.

“We are celebrating, but we are also, of course, praying for another miracle and praying it will have the outcome we desire,” said Raymond at a press conference in Twin Falls, Idaho, where his mother is recuperating at St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Centre.

“We do have faith, and we know someone else is in control — and whatever the outcome, we can accept that,” said Raymond.

Chretien survived by rationing what little food she had and using snow for water. She used the sun to melt snow.

Her daily diet was limited to a spoonful of trail mix, a fish oil pill and a piece of hard candy. She lost 14 kilograms.

Chretien is now on a liquid diet before transitioning back to solid food. Her son was amazed at her condition.

“Honestly, I would’ve hardly known anything has happened to her,” he said. “It’s beyond belief . . . It’s just her, just the way I remember. It’s amazing.”

Dr. James Westberry, an internal medicine specialist at St. Luke’s, was also surprised by Chretien’s survival.

He credited determination to survive as crucial to the happy outcome.

“Not giving up — that’s the most important thing,” he said. “Everything else had to stem from that, so I’m thankful she has the spiritual basis to keep going in the face of what, for most people, would be overwhelming odds.

“It’s understandable to call it a miracle.”

Raymond said his mother read the books she had in the car, including a Bible. Of particular importance was Psalm 86. The first verse, in the King James Version of the Holy Bible, reads: “Bow down thine ear, O Lord, hear me, for I am poor and in need.”

Raymond said his parents were using both regular maps and GPS to make their way to Las Vegas.

“I believe they underestimated the conditions of that road,” he said. “They thought it would be more reliable. Before they knew it, it was the evening hours.

“They may have made a wrong turn, I don’t know,” he said. “What they expected wasn’t what they got.”

Det. Jim Carpenter of the Elko County Sheriff’s Department in Nevada said the hunters were probably looking for “horn shed” — the discarded antlers of deer and elk — not a missing Canadian in a stranded van.

Bad weather made it impossible to mount an aerial search Sunday for the missing man, but it’s hoped the weather will improve enough today to get a plane to comb the rugged terrain.

Carpenter said seven searchers from his department and another seven from the neighbouring Owyhee County sheriff’s department from Idaho, as well as search dogs, were hunting for Albert Chretien.

He said the search began in the area near the van, but on Sunday the search moved from State Highway 225 back to where the van was located. The search is not easy.

“It’s like a giant spider’s web out there,” said Carpenter of the road network, plus there’s snow and landslides to contend with.

Read more: http://www.theprovince.com/Family+prays+another+miracle+searchers+scour+Nevada+wilderness+missing+Penticton/4747820/story.html#ixzz1LsI9Nl7c

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MAY 13, 3011 UPDATE

Travelers in U.S. warned not to rely only on GPS
Fri May 13, 2011 6:48pm GMT


By Laura Zuckerman

SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - Travelers in the western United States should not rely solely on technology such as GPS for navigation, authorities said, after a Canadian couple were lost in the Nevada wilderness for 48 days.

Albert Chretien, 59, and his wife Rita Chretien, 56, sought a shorter route between Boise, Idaho and Jackpot, Nevada during a road trip from British Columbia to Las Vegas.

Rita Chretien drank water from a stream and rationed meagre supplies until hunters found her on Friday. Albert Chretien has been missing since March 22, when he went to seek help.

The Chretians mapped the route on their hand-held GPS, an electronic device tied to global satellites and commonly used for navigation.

Law enforcement and search and rescue officials said that too many travellers are letting technology lull them into a false sense of security.

"There are times when you need to put the GPS down and look out the window," said Howard Paul, veteran search and rescue official with the Colorado Search and Rescue Board, the volunteer organisation that coordinates that state's missions.

Sheriff's offices in remote, high-elevation parts of Idaho, Nevada and Wyoming report the past two years have brought a rise in the number of GPS-guided travellers driving off marked and paved highways and into trouble.

The spike has prompted Death Valley National Park in California to caution on its web site that "GPS navigation to sites to remote locations like Death Valley are notoriously unreliable."

When two roads diverge in Western lands, take the one more travelled, authorities said.

"You've got people driving into the middle of a field because a machine showed a route that was shorter and quicker -- which it ultimately is not," said Rob DeBree, undersheriff in Albany County in southeastern Wyoming.

Searching for travellers who veer off an interstate highway in a county the size of Connecticut can be costly, time-consuming and dangerous for rescuers, he said.

Jerry Colson, sheriff of neighbouring Carbon County, issued a broad appeal this winter to stay on paved roadways after several motorists consulted GPS devices for shortcuts and ploughed into snowdrifts on roads to nowhere.

Authorities said such incidents show there is no substitute for common sense.

"Your machine may tell you the quickest route but it might not take into account there are impassable canyons between you and your destination," said Daryl Crandall, sheriff of Owyhee County in southwest Idaho.

Kevin McKinney, detective sergeant with the sheriff's office in Elko County, Nevada that is heading up the search for Albert Chretien, said motorists risk hardships on the patchwork of primitive roads in the wilds of northern Nevada where technology is ineffective.

"This country is as rugged and as unforgiving as you can get," he said.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Greg McCune)