Rescued B.C. woman back on solid food
Published Monday, May 9, 2011 5:11PM PDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 1:42AM PDT
Rita Chretien, the B.C. woman who spent more than seven weeks stranded in the Nevada wilderness with little more than a small amount of trail mix and melted snow to eat, has been upgraded to solid foods, say doctors monitoring her remarkable progress in Idaho.
The 56-year-old was found on Friday by hunters on ATVs. She had spent 49 days in her van after it became stuck in the mud on a remote logging road as she and her husband Al made their way to a trade show in Las Vegas.
Doctors at St. Luke's Magic Valley Medical Center say her recovery after the harrowing ordeal is nothing less than miraculous.
On Monday, Rita was able to begin eating solid foods and will begin taking having six small meals a day.
Hospital spokesman Ken Dey said she has been enjoying a small amount of yogurt and dairy products, but new foods are being introduced slowly.
"Rita mentioned she likes rice over potatoes and salads," he said.
Dey said Chretien is continuing her physical therapy. Physicians say she is not ready to leave hospital today, although she could be discharged by mid-week.
‘She was in dang good shape'
Troy Sill was out with his daughter and son-in-law looking for elk antlers on Friday when they came across the Chretiens' van stuck in the mud. He says the terrain is rugged, and the road is little more than two tracks through the sage brush.
"I thought, ‘What in the heck is that van doing clear out here?' And when I saw Canada plates, I thought, ‘Oh my good lord,'" Sill said.
"I don't know what they could have been thinking to have a van out there. I just don't know."
He spoke with Rita, and she told him how long she had been trapped. She broke down in tears when she told her rescuers that her husband had been missing for weeks.
"She was in dang good shape for what she had been through, but I could see that she needed help," Sill said.
He says he was "amazed" that she had survived for so long on just a small amount of trail mix and meltwater. Before going to get help, the trio gave Rita a small snack of beef jerky, Doritos and Gatorade.
Sill says that he and his family will be out again on Friday, if necessary, to help in the search for Rita's husband Al.
The search for Al
Meanwhile, a search party of about 30 people working in teams with ATVs and sniffer dogs spent Monday combing the mountainous terrain around the van looking for Al Chretien.
The Elko County Sheriff's Dept. said searchers are now using horses and ATV's to push themselves further into the remote areas where Al may have attempted traversing in an effort to find help. Some members walking the area are now using a hand-held GPS unit identical to the one Al and Rita had with them on the trip.
Three days after the Chretiens' vehicle got stuck in the mud in late March, near an old logging road along a northern Nevada national forest, Albert Chretien told Rita to stay put and set out on foot to look for help.
Police said Al told his wife he was going to walk to Mountain City -- 35 kilometres away -- and that he would stick to the roads. He headed off going west, but hasn't been seen since.
The search for Al had to be halted twice over the weekend because of poor weather. Snow and limited visibility removed the possibility of flying a helicopter over the search area.
Until Friday, searchers had been scouring the wrong area to try to find the couple. They were 300 km further north, in southern Oregon, near the convenience store where the Chretiens were last seen in late March, captured on in-store video picking up snacks.
While Albert was carrying a GPS device to help him navigate back to the highway, he was not dressed for the weather in the mountains, which has seen a combination of rain and snow over the last several weeks.
Police are hoping that Albert managed to find some shelter along the way, and is remaining there waiting for help.
Authorities do not believe the likelihood of finding the 59-year-old alive in the vast wilderness is very good.
Recent poor weather has seen snow accumulations of up to five feet in some areas, said Det. Sgt. Kevin McKinney with Elko County Sheriff's Dept.
"We've had rockslides and washouts of the roads. It's also very steep and mountainous terrain. There are also predators out there; we're not very confident we'll have a happy result in this," he said.
Authorities are also exploring the possibility that Al was injured somewhere along the way and wasn't able to recover.
"We're hoping he was able to find some shelter and do what his wife did and just stay put until someone can come and find him," McKinney said.
But the effort to find Al will remain a search and not a recovery mission, he added.
"We're going to keep searching until we either find Albert or exhaust every resource to find him," McKinney said.
A long journey
The Chretiens left their home in Penticton, B.C., on March 19 to attend a trade show in Las Vegas. They apparently took a wrong turn at some point after they entered Nevada and ended up stranded on the logging road.
The Chretiens' son, Raymond, told reporters who had gathered Sunday at the hospital where Rita Chretien was taken that while he and his family are ecstatic to have their mother alive and well, they are still worried about their father.
"We are celebrating but we are praying for another miracle," Raymond Chretien told the news conference.
"It's the biggest miracle we could ever ask for, and there's still one more to come in, so we're still praying for another one."
Raymond Chretien told CTV News he had braced for his mother to be in bad shape when he got to the hospital. Rita had subsisted for seven weeks on meager rations of hard candy, fish oil pills, trail mix and snow she melted in the sun. While his mother had lost almost 30 pounds, Raymond said she looked great.
"I wouldn't have hardly known anything had happened to her. It's just her, just the way I remember," he said. "It's amazing."