LONDON, England / The Guardian / World News / Canada / May 8, 2011
Chretien rescued after seven weeks surviving on trail mix and creek water – but search for her husband, Albert, continues
Missing Canadian tourist Rita Chretien found alive in NevadaChretien rescued after seven weeks surviving on trail mix and creek water – but search for her husband, Albert, continues
By Ed Pilkington in New York
Canadian couple Albert and Rita Chretien are seen in this
Royal Canadian Mounted Police photo released on May 7.
A Canadian woman whose van got stuck in canyon territory in Nevada has been found alive after surviving for seven weeks on water and tiny amounts of trail mix.
Rita Chretien, 56, is being treated in hospital in Twin Falls, Idaho after she was discovered by hunters taking advantage of the first good weather in Nevada following an extreme winter. She had lost 30 pounds in weight but is likely to make a full recovery.
The search now turns to her husband, Albert, 59, who she last saw on 22 March. After their vehicle got stuck in the mud, he set off on his own on foot armed with only a GPS unit in an attempt to find help, and has not been seen since.
The couple set off from their home in Penticton, British Columbia, close to the US border, on 19 March and drove south en route to a trade fair in Las Vegas. Their son, Raymond, who has spoken to his mother, told the Oregonian newspaper that they decided to take a scenic route along back roads. But their 2000 Chevrolet Astro van got stuck in mud on a logging road in north-east Nevada. The remote area has no mobile phone coverage.
"I don't believe they were prepared for winter weather. They don't go camping," Raymond said.
Left on her own in the van, Rita survived on water from a nearby creek, and trail mix which she ate sparingly over the 49 days before she was discovered. She was severely malnourished when she was found by hunters on all-terrain vehicles and was unable to keep down the food they gave her.
When she first talked to her son she said she was sorry for the worry she had put the family through. "She felt extremely bad for us all. She was extremely apologetic," Raymond said.
When the couple first went missing, a search was launched in Oregon with the help of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but it was hampered by heavy snow and the rugged terrain, and was called off two weeks ago.
Raymond said the family was amazed to hear of his mother's survival. "We're stunned. We haven't fully digested it. This is a miracle."
Rescue efforts are being stepped up for Albert, for whom hope is slim. Raymond said his mother was not optimistic about finding her husband: "He didn't have shelter. It's her belief that he didn't make it."
© Guardian News and Media Limited 2011