ELKO, Nevada (Isabelle Zehnder reporting) — A British Columbia woman who vanished with her husband seven weeks ago while they were on their way to Las Vegas was found alive Friday by hunters; her husband is still missing.
It was a miraculous recovery. Rita Chretien, 56, was found alive with her van in Elko County, the RCMP and Baker City, Oregon Police reported. The couple was last seen on March 19. There is no sign of her husband.
A couple on four-wheelers spotted the Chretiens’ van in a ravine near the Humboldt National Forest. According to the couples’ son, his mother told him that they were sightseeing on back roads when their van got stuck in the mud. Three days later Rita’s husband, Albert Chretien, 59, set out on foot for help but never returned.
Rita survived 49 days in the wilderness by eating snow and small amounts of trail mix, her son said. He also said she told him she didn’t think she would have survived another two or three days had the hunters not found her.
“We’re stunned,” her son, Raymond Chretien told The Oregonian. “We haven’t fully digested it. This is a miracle.”
Rita was airlifted to St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Centre in Twin Falls, Idaho. A nursing supervisor there said she was in fair condition on Friday night.
RCMP Cpl. Dan Moskaluk told The Canadian Press on Saturday that he’d spoken with Raymond Chretien. They’d had a conversation with his mother and the doctor on Friday night.
“There is nothing alarming conveyed during the conversation. Apparently she has lost quite a large amount of weight – between 20 and 30 pounds,” Moskaluk said.
Rita surprised everyone. She was up and walking around, but she will remain in the hospital for some time, he added.
“Mind you,” Moskaluk said, “this is all very bitter-sweet because we still have one person outstanding, her husband.”
Elko County Sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Kevin McKinney told the Elko Daily Free Press, “She sounds like she’s coherent and she’s very hungry. He added that officers interviewed her at the hospital.
Search efforts for Albert are planned to begin Saturday, Raymond said. He also said he and his wife would be flying out to join his mother at the hospital.
Rita told her son that she and her husband left their Penticton home in March, crossed into Washington and reached Baker City that afternoon. They bought gas at a food mart and were captured on a video surveillance camera.
Rita and Albert own a commercial excavating business and were on their way to a Las Vegas trade show.
Rita kept a journal to let her family know what had happened if she didn’t survive. Raymond said 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 was reported missing by relatives when they didn’t return from their trip on March 30.
Police agencies said in late April that an extensive air and ground search had failed to turn up any sign of the couple or their vehicle.
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Source: The Associated Press